New Book Showcases Cutting Edge Reforms in Clean Up of Chao Lake

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The FINANCIAL — An Asian Development Bank (ADB) project to clean up one of the great lakes of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is on course to succeed where many similar projects have not been successful thanks to cutting edge reforms, according to a new book launched on October 23. 

The second volume on “Reviving Lakes and Wetlands” focuses on Chao Lake in Anhui Province where in 2011 the PRC requested ADB to design an integrated water pollution control project.

The lake has suffered long-standing pollution problems, including most recently from the runoff from fertilizer residues and waste emissions from livestock production. These have been causing unattractive and foul smelling algae and a reduction in fish stocks. During the summer of 2010, an outbreak of blue-green algae threatened the drinking water supply of the 300,000 residents of eastern Chaohu City.

ADB approved a loan of $250 million in November 2012 to clean up the lake. The project includes investments in traditional environmental infrastructure, such as sewerage networks, wastewater treatment plants, and solid waste management, but also nonstructural innovations, such as pilots to test on-farm technologies, and an incentive system for farmers to replace chemical fertilizers with organic ones. 

With ADB’s assistance, the government has taken three major steps to create a basic framework to achieve its long-term objective of improving water quality in the lake. These are the development of a coherent and comprehensive master plan, the creation of an administrative structure that places most of the upper catchment within the jurisdiction of a single administrative body, and the creation of the Chao Lake Management Authority as the institution with primary authority and responsibility for managing the lake. 

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The new book documents ADB’s interventions in the lake, discussing the challenges and remedies to Chao’s long-standing pollution problems, and analyzes the initial reforms that have taken place. It compares the PRC experience with four case studies from Australia, Japan, the UK, and the US.  

“The government is aware of the generally poor and still deteriorating condition of many of the country’s aquatic ecosystems and has been devoting substantial amounts of time, money, and effort to reverse the situation,” said ADB Vice-President Stephen P. Groff at the book launch in Manila. “Hopefully the strategy to clean up Chao Lake detailed in ADB’s new book should provide a new blueprint for lake rehabilitation in the country, as well as internationally.”

The book follows a first volume that came out at the end of December 2008, covering the crucial factors for succeeding in lake and wetland restoration in the PRC. That book highlighted four elements for success: strong and consistent political leadership, integrated planning and analysis, effective management structures, and financial engineering.

Volume 2 stresses that while the creation of a lake authority is a step in the right direction, it needs considerable strengthening, as does the whole financing, operation, and maintenance of the lake’s environmental operations.

ADB, based in Manila, is dedicated to reducing poverty in Asia and the Pacific through inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable growth, and regional integration. Established in 1966, it is owned by 67 members—48 from the region. In 2014, ADB assistance totaled $22.9 billion, including cofinancing of $9.2 billion.

 

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