The Joint Declaration on River Restoration 7 February 2018

The China-Europe Water Platform (CEWP) Expert Workshop on Water Quality and Restoration Standards of River Ecosystems was a two day event held last 6-7th of February in Beijing, China. The event aimed at reinforcing exchanges between China and the European Union, under the framework of CEWP and the EU-China 2020 Strategic Agenda for Cooperation. It was considered a success event by an independent consultant since it was an important opportunity for Chinese and European experts to meet and share experiences around the urgent topic on river and freshwater ecosystem restoration. The most important outcome of the event was the expert joint declaration below:

Joint Declaration on River Restoration – 07 February 2018, Beijing CHINA

“Since we consider…

…that there is the risk of spending financial resources without achieving intended results,

…that riverbed destruction is a common practice resulting from a lack of knowledge about impacts on ecosystem structure and functions and the way these can affect human wellbeing in the long term,

…that current water quality standards alone will not be enough to protect ecological environments and provide benefits to all, as required under current legislation,

…that we risk local extinctions or invasion of alien species that can result severe negative impacts and may require high levels of financial resources to eliminate,

…that scenery and landscape recovery is not enough to achieve actual Chinese standards,

…that although there are some good examples of restoration, concreting of rivers remains a common practice in China, and needs to be used with caution; concreted river banks do not act as the only solution for protection against floods, do not improve water quality, do not provide space for human leisure, and do not produce ecological benefits,

…that in China, mainly focus on water quantity and quality, trying to consider ecological aspects in recent restoration projects.

… and that land development in some places pays more attention on profits, lack of integrated and long-term vison.

“We therefore acknowledge the need to implement the following measures…

Governance Measures – Develop restoration standards with guidelines and  . Biodiversity should be taken into consideration, so that ecological functions can be ensured. A step-by-step approach should be designed with specific focus on quantifiable evaluation and adapted to unique stakeholder needs.  Guidelines should be developed for different types of sites: one from rural and another for urban areas, due to different property regimes (landowner and government) as well as local and watershed scale.  Through the River Chief mechanism, promote coordination among departments related to river restoration, such as water resources, environmental protection, housing and urban-rural development, and territories. China Restoration standards should take into account International Standards.

Quality Measures – Concrete should be used with caution, greening should be favoured to improve water retention and protection against floods, among other ecological functions. Measures that consider biodiversity with innovative solutions should also be incorporated into the design of projects.  Genetic provenance of materials should ensure the use of native materials.

Stakeholder Measures – Develop working group/platform that involves designers, developers of projects, practitioners, and academia so that guidelines are used Nation-wide. Regional adaptation should be taken in consideration.

Publicity measures – Raise public awareness on the importance of improved standards, the need for a bigger discussion platform in China, and give awards to reinforce good restoration standards. Data collection and monitoring of restoration projects should also be a priority.

Research Measures – Develop typologies of rivers so that they become reference for restoration; development of concepts should be feasible and operable.

The expert workshop was organized by the University of Évora (Portugal), the Portuguese Ministry of Environment, China Institute of Water Resources and Hydropower research, the Tongji University and the Society for Ecological Rehabilitation of Beijing and the China River Restoration Network, with the collaboration of the Portuguese Embassy and the Delegation of the European Union to China.

The first day was dedicated to on-site visits to three different river restoration sites in the city of Beijing (Zhuan River in Northwest Beijing; Bei Tu Cheng River in North Beijing; Yong Ding River in Southwest Beijing) with the objective to show in loco restoration projects to European and Chinese visiting experts that would be presented in detail the following day to trigger discussion on restoration standards.

The second day of the event included a brief welcoming and introductory session by the Portuguese Embassy, EU Delegation in Beijing, China Institute of Water Resources and Hydropower Research and the Society for Ecological Rehabilitation of Beijing, followed by morning and afternoon sessions of presentations and discussions with Chinese and European experts on topics related to: river restoration standards, river restoration practices, river restoration challenges, and specific river restoration case studies from the Chinese and European experience. In the afternoon, the workshop was focused on discussing and drafting the Joint Declaration on River Restoration, to guide the direction of cooperation and collaborative work on water and environmental management under the CEWP framework.

This CEWP event provided a unique venue and platform for knowledge sharing and exchange, in advancement of policy cooperation and partnerships between governments in Europe and China. The over 50 workshop expert participants produced a Joint Declaration on River Restoration that they wish contributes to guide China and Europe joint development and implementation of restoration standards and will further contribute to the cooperation and collaboration between China and Europe through the CEWP. In fact, future activities are foreseen in a near future as a follow up activities, namely: on-line inquiry, interviews with practitioners to support the production of policy study on restoration standards as well as new dialogue event to deepen the development of restoration standards.

Finally, this event also provided a valuable opportunity for water sector practitioners, researches, and businesses, to meet and exchange ideas, share knowledge and experience, and promote new solutions for addressing the world’s important water challenges.