Improving Water Safety & Access for Millions in China: Celebrating 15 Years of the UNDP-China Water Governance Programme

June 5, 2022
Water Governance Programme beneficaries


June 5, Beijing – To mark 15 years of partnership on water governance, the United Nations Development Project (UNDP) in China, the International Center of Economic and Technical Exchanges (CICETE), The Coca-Cola Company China, and the World Wild Fund for Nature (WWF) China, today held a virtual celebration on World Environment Day 2022. 

The event marked the significant achievements of the Water Governance Programme, a strategic partnership launched in 2007. Since its inception, tens of millions of people in over 20 provinces across China have benefited from access to safe drinking water, improved sewage management, sustainable agriculture and river basin management.  

A further 350,000 tons of water are also now being treated annually, using an innovative nature-based solution in China’s rural areas. Made from natural materials such as soil, sand and charcoal, affordable wastewater treatment systems are helping households treat their sewage and secure access to clean water sustainably, without the need for electricity.  

“With demand for water skyrocketing and freshwater stocks dwindling due to overuse, pollution and climate change, ensuring access to sufficient and safe water for all is increasingly under threat,” said Beate Trankmann, Resident Representative, UNDP China. “The Water Governance Programme is a prime example of what can be achieved through a partnership framework spanning government, the private sector, an international development organization, plus the many research institutes and community organizations that have worked with us over the years”. 

Initially designed with a focus on ensuring drinking water safety, the partnership has now grown into a multi-faceted project addressing several issues including small and medium-sized river basin management, sustainable agriculture and transforming stormwater into a usable and valued resource.  

Reflecting on the programme’s expanded scope, Jin Hai, Director-General of International Technical Cooperation and Exchange Center (INTCE) at the Ministry of Water Resources said the programme’s rural, domestic and school sewage treatment projects have been “rated highly by local governments and the public”. He added that the projects had also played an active role in promoting new technologies, fighting poverty and implementing the national rural revitalization strategy. 

After a decade and a half of developing solutions to tackle complex water safety and sustainability challenges, the programme is now sharing the lessons learned with countries in Central Asia and the Langcang-Mekong Region - nations on the frontlines of water stress and water ecosystem degradation. 

An assessment of the work undertaken over the 15 yearlong partnership noted that its integrated systems’ solution that spans urban, rural and watershed areas, are producing significant ecological, economic and social benefits. It also highlighted several areas, which if scaled-up and were the focus of more innovation, could help to accelerate the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  

While reiterating their commitment to sustainable water use, Mr. Zhang Jiantao, Vice President at Coca-Cola Greater China and Mongolia said that though the programme’s 15th anniversary is “a milestone in our long-term cooperation strategy”, working together to take their water stewardship strategy “to the next level and bringing value to more watersheds and groups” was even more exciting. 

Also looking ahead to the programme’s future aims, Lu Lunyan, Chief Executive Officer at World Wildlife Fund (WWF) China said she looked forward to “building pilot projects and collaborative platforms in key watersheds and introducing science-based and nature-based solutions to improve the resilience of ecosystems and communities to climate change, water stress and socio-economic change”.  

In addition to scaling up the programme’s all-natural and zero-electricity consumption, wastewater treatment systems across China’s rural areas and further sharing the programme’s experiences with other water-stressed localities, the Water Governance Programme will focus on creating a SDG localization criteria for tracking progress towards the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 focused on Clean Water and Sanitation. This will help translate local communities’ conservation practices and track their progress against the SDGs, encouraging them to accelerate their efforts. 

“The 15th anniversary is a new starting point for our cooperation,” said Zhang Yi, Deputy Director of China International Center for Economic and Technological Exchanges (CICETE). He added that implementing “key water-related strategies as per China's new development stage, as well as contributing to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development” would be a key focus of the programme’s next phase as it seeks to promote technology innovation, pilot demonstrations, community participation, women’s empowerment and more.