The China Development Bank (CDB) granted RMB488.8bn in loans for the protection and green development of the Yangtze River basin last year, representing an increase of 27% YoY, as reported by Xinhua on January 20. Specifically, RMB89.4bn was given to support the ecological preservation and restoration of the Yangtze River region, up 81% YoY. In addition, CDB issued a Yangtze River protection-themed green bond in 2020, with a total volume of RMB5bn, covering projects such as sewage treatment, water environment improvement, forestry development, and others. Over the same period, CDB also provided RMB107.7bn in financing for the Yangtze River Economic Zone through equity investment, fund investment, bond issuance, and leasing business, and attracted RMB302.8bn in investments from other banks through syndicated loans. According to CDB, the bank will continue to support the high-quality development of the Yangtze River area, with sustainable development as a priority.
Based on the estimation from CDB, the ongoing projects supported by the bank could help dredge 608 kilometers of riverways, treat and restore 1,334 kilometers of river streams and 35,000 mu of lake, add 1,720 kilometers of sewer pipes, and relocate 201 high pollution enterprises in the Yangtze River area. This corresponds with the country’s increasing focus in the past few years on the better protection of the ecological environment of the Yangtze River Economic Belt, which includes nine provinces and two municipalities that represent over 40% of the country’s population and GDP.
In August 2018, the central government has included biodiversity conservation as one of the performance indicators for local government officials in the Yangtze River basin. In January 2019, the Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE) and NDRC has issued an action plan, outlining eight major tasks for Yangtze River protection, which covers raising water quality, safeguarding ecological security, and else. In December 2020, the National People’s Congress (NPC) passed the country’s first law for Yangtze River protection, clarifying the government responsibilities, as well as the rewards and penalties for the environmental conservation of the area. The law is expected to take effect from March 1, 2021. Also, from January 1, 2021, China started a decade-long fishing ban on the Yangtze River, to support the recovery of the fish populations.
With these efforts, the water quality in the Yangtze River basin has continued to improve in recent years. Based on China’s five-tier quality system for surface water, the proportion of water sections reaching Grade I to III quality in the Yangtze River area has risen from 82.3% in 2016 to 91.7% in 2019, and to 96.3% by November 2020. The country has also eliminated all sections with the lowest water quality of below Grade V in the area by the end of last year.