Xining Municipality is the capital city of Qinghai Province in northwest China. It was historically a commercial hub along the ancient Northern Silk Road's Hexi Corridor. Today, with a population of 2.12 million, it is the largest city on the upper reaches of the Yellow River, accounting for 40 percent of the province’s population and of its GDP. More than 25 percent of its population belong to 36 ethnic minority groups.
Qinghai is known as “China’s water tower” because it hosts the sources of three major rivers - the Yangtze, Yellow River, and Lancang River. However, 45 percent of the land in the province was heavily affected by erosion.
Located in the Huangshui River (a tributary of the Yellow River) Basin and at the confluence of the Nanchuan and Beichuan Rivers, Xining Municipality suffered frequent flooding and landslides caused by heavy summer rainfalls. Yet as of 2009, it was the only capital city in China without a flood warning system.
In the watersheds around Xining, traditional farming communities use locally available surface water to irrigate their crops. Inappropriate farming and land use practices caused further land degradation and erosion, increasing the risk of flash floods and worsening damages from other natural disasters.
The project adopted an integrated participatory approach that comprised:
- basin-wide flood and environment management, through water and soil conservation measures, waterway rehabilitation, construction of wastewater collection systems, riverside landscape improvement, and establishment of a flood warning information system;
- participatory livelihood development that recognizes the critical role of the local communities and farmers in watershed management and mobilized them to actively participate in the entire project cycle from design to implementation and supervision, with access to information and a voice in decision making;
- and sustainable development management, by preparing and implementing a comprehensive operation and maintenance plan covering staffing, technical support, funding and other arrangements.
Implemented between 2009 and 2015, the project helped Xining Municipality and three counties of Huangzhong, Huangyuan, and Datong in its jurisdiction:
- Protect 434,440 people from floods through new or rehabilitated dikes and a new flood warning and forecasting system;
- Reduce the amount of urban wastewater discharged directly into rivers in Xining by 4,825,900 tons a year through the 87-kilometer wastewater collection networks built or upgraded under the project;
- Apply soil and water conservation measures in an area of more than 100,000 hectares, and reduce sediment flows into the Huangshui River by over one million tons a year – or more than 20 percent;
- Enhance the lives of local rural communities through improved village roads and field tracks, new animal shelters, and additional agricultural land on terraced slopes;
- Provide solar water heaters to farm households, which reduced the use of firewood, protected vegetation, and saved each household RMB80-120 ($12-18) per month; and
- Train more than 16,000 farmers and project staff in good practices to help conserve soil and water. As a result, farmers gained a better understanding of the long-term benefits of tree planting and reforestation for future income generation, and supported conservation measures such as restrictions on animal grazing in the sub-watersheds and adjacent slopes.