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Restoring Simao River the Natural Way!

July 5, 2018|Oliver Baudler

 A new and exciting landmark awaits the Chinese city of Pu’er with the transformation of its Simao River into a dynamic natural ecosystem. Previously affected by increasing urbanization which diminished its ecological importance, the river is now evolving as a backbone of green space system while protecting the city from flooding.

Traversing Pu’er City is the 15-kilometer Simao River, a natural drainage channel receiving water from eight river tributaries. With the growing population, however, its water flows had been obstructed by solid waste, aquatic plants and informal settlements in some of the riverbanks, thus exposing the city to flooding. Also, untreated wastewater had been discharged into the river, further deteriorating its water quality.

To address these issues, the local government sought assistance from CDIA in 2011 to finalize the plan for the Simao River rehabilitation to improve its water quality and natural vegetation, and protect the city from 50-year flood events.

A key innovation of this project is the adoption of an ecological and sustainable approach. For one, natural and indigenous materials and processes have been used in rehabilitation, resulting in lower construction and maintenance costs, and benefiting local industries. Secondly, green spaces with recreational facilities have been created in line with initiatives to reduce flooding and improve water quality. All these measures are geared towards making Simao River an attractive landmark for Pu’er City.

The German Development Bank KfW funded the flood control and channel improvement works under a USD 80 million loan. The local government of Pu’er, on the other hand, financed the other project components such as land acquisition, relocation of affected residents, wastewater management and wetland rehabilitation.

The Simao River rehabilitation commenced in 2015 with infrastructure measures focused on flood control, sewage interception and river ecology restoration. CDIA’s monitoring activity in May 2018 found out that 85% of the project work has been completed while the entire loan from KfW has been disbursed.

By end of this year, 1,600 households will have been resettled in well-planned communities; and residents have already expressed affirmation of their better dwellings.

“Our living conditions have improved. Aside from eliminating flood risks, the project relocated us to new communities with better access to basic services,” one resident confirmed.

The project is yet to be completed by December 2018. However, CDIA’s monitoring team is assured that Pu’er will likely achieve its objective of developing the water course into an attractive ecological landmark while eliminating flood risks and improving water quality of the river.

“The inclusion of the project into the overall development strategy of the city, the active participation of local stakeholders in planning, the establishment of a governance structure for Pu’er’s water systems, and the linking of the various project components to internal and external funders are attributes that make Pu’er a model for other cities in integrating river rehabilitation with flood-risk management measures using engineering and nature-based solutions,” according to the CDIA monitoring team composed of Nick Baoy, Eva Ringhof and Chenzi Yiyang.

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