Diplomatic Correspondent: The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a $197 million loan to enhance ecological resilience and diversification of rural livelihoods in the Silk Road region of China.
Environmental degradation and weak ecological resilience are key concerns in Shaanxi, Gansu, and Qinghai provinces in the Silk Road region of the northwestern People’s Republic of China (PRC).
The region has complex eco-environment systems that are water scarce, have highly erodible low-quality soils, and poor-quality forestry and vegetation cover, which are exacerbated by climate change impacts.
“Forest and wetland degradation is a critical ecological and environmental problem in these provinces,” said ADB Senior Water Resources Specialist for East Asia Au Shion Yee. “The project is among the first in the northwest PRC to adopt the close-to-nature forestry approach as part of climate-resilient forestry planning and management.”
All activities under the project will apply a close-to-nature forestry management approach, which treats forests as important public goods to support ecological systems in performing multiple functions, said the ADB.
The project will support environmental protection through institutional strengthening and ecological restoration of fragile landscapes.
This includes the provision of seedlings, planting, replanting, or replacing trees and shrub species in existing forested areas and upgrading of access roads in some forestry sites. Other activities include the construction of supporting facilities such as canals, bridges, water control mechanisms, and patrol stations.
To enhance ecosystem services, environmental education, and management facilities, the project will promote sustainable ecotourism development and environmental education to scale up lessons for development impact.
This includes support to the government’s “beautiful village program” which aims to improve the rural living environment in the area. Under this, cultural exhibition facilities, green plazas, and tourist environmental education centers will be constructed.
The project will also promote best practices and knowledge sharing of close-to-nature forestry and wetland management. A trans-provincial coordination mechanism will be established to strengthen institutional arrangements between municipal, city, district, and county forestry and grassland bureaus for environment and ecosystem protection.
A community forest management approach will be pilot tested to engage local communities as custodians of local areas in planning and operation and maintenance activities for forests and wetlands.
The total cost of the project is $327.23 million, with $130.23 million counterpart financing from the government. It is expected to be completed in 2029.