Phase I of the project (Jan.2008–Dec.2010) saw the project established in 5 regions along the Yangtze River basin (Qinghai, Chongqing, Sichuan, Yunnan and Shanghai), where an alternative approach to sustainable water resource education and management was initiated and developed. During this time, over 60,000 students engaged in learning and action in sustainable water resource management and contributed to the restoration of Yangtze’s ecological integrity.
In Phase II (2011-2013), Hubei was also included in the project, making a total of 59 schools serving as core learning bases. It is from these schools that the project developed and expanded, involving more communities and partners, and supporting other schools in their area to engage in sustainable water resource management.
Encouraged by the great success of the first two phases, Phase III (2014-2018) has extended to include three new watersheds: one of China’s largest and most densely populated watersheds, the Pearl River; the Yarlung Tsampo River in Tibet and the Hai River at China’s capital, Beijing.
The impact of the project is increased by engaging a broader range of social players through national and international meetings; as well as strengthening existing relations with project partners, government departments, the media, the corporate sector and university students. The continued partnership with China’s Ministry of Education is a unique feature of the Waterschool China programme, as it is through this partnership that the methodology and resources developed have the potential to become an integral part of China’s national curriculum reform.
The Yangtze River is of critical importance to the ecology and sustainable development in China. Thus, the project has been implemented in this key region since 2008. Running 6,300 kilometres from Tibet to the Pacific Ocean, the Yangtze cuts through the heart of China and serves as a source of livelihood to a large part of China’s population (the Yangtze Delta region itself produces 20% of national GDP) and as a home to a large number of rare and endemic animal species, critical to China’s biodiversity.
Over the years, various measures have been taken by the government to address the degradation of water quality and loss of biodiversity. Examples include top down measures such as logging bans, the relocation of residents at the source of the river, law enforcement etc. Despite all the efforts, however, water situation in China including the Yangtze remains a huge challenge to the country’s efforts in moving towards a path of sustainable development.
It was for this reason that the Yangtze River Basin became the first site of Swarovski’s Waterschool project in China. By promoting an alternative approach to sustainable water resource management, of public empowerment and participation, a process of social learning and action that contributes to restoring the ecological integrity of China has been initiated.
The Pearl River Delta is the most extensive river system in southern China and a major addition to the Waterschool China project. With a length of 2,400 km it is China’s third longest river (after the Yangtze and Yellow River). The lower reaches of the river also pass through densely populated, modern cities, such as Shenzhen, Guangzhou and Hong Kong.
When compared to China’s other river basins the Pearl river can be described as being rich in freshwater biodiversity and rich natural resources, however the rapid industrialisation and growth which has taken place over recent decades has resulted in the degradation of water quality and an increase in water shortages.
Not only does the river basin encompass some of the most densely urbanised regions in the world, Despite the astounding rate at which the economy has developed in certain parts of the river, the gap between the rich and poor along the whole river basin remains great.
It is also home to a rich cultural heritage with a total of 50 of China’s 56 recognised ethnic minorities living in the watershed, including the Yao ethnic group (some 3 million are found in the Pearl River Basin). This group is of particular significance because while they make up only a small proportion of China’s whole population, the Yaos played an active role in the founding of the People’s Republic and their traditions of sustainable living have greatly influenced modern China.
The Yarlung Tsangpo originates in the glaciers at Mount Kailash in south-western Tibet at an elevation of 5,200 m above sea level. Travelling through the northern section of the Himalayas, it forms the South Tibet Valley and the Yarlung Tsangpo Grand Canyon before entering India where it is known as the Brahmaputra, finally emptying into the Bay of Bengal in Bangladesh.
With a total length of 2,900 km, this river is the main water source for hundreds of millions living downstream. As it descends, the surrounding vegetation changes drastically from cold desert, to arid steppe and deciduous scrub vegetation, and ultimately conifer and rhododendron forest.
The Yarlung Tsangpo is of both international and regional importance; besides being the highest major river in the world, it s a hub of environmental diversity and cultural significance in the Tibetan region. Even so, the Yarlung Tsangpo and its communities are particularly vulnerable to increasingly serious challenges in environmental degradation, as well as the disappearance of indigenous knowledge and traditions. The Waterschool Programme will be key to provide much needed support to implement sustainable water resource management that will benefit both local and international communities.
The Hai River flows through Beijing before reaching the Yellow Sea at the Bohai gulf. Industrial and urban development in this watershed has resulted in a radical decrease in water volume, with many of the Hai River’s tributaries now dry for most of the year. While this arid region is expected to benefit from the South-North Water Transfer project, public action to preserve precious water resources is of great importance.
As the capital of one of the world’s most rapidly developing nations, Beijing is a key location for the Waterschool project. As a city with a permanent population of almost 20 million, and the political and cultural centre of China, is it also the location where stakeholder engagement can be most effective.
Apart from providing the potential to build stronger partnerships with media, government, national and international organisations; Beijing is an important region as it also faces chronic water shortages due to water-intensive agriculture, industry, population growth and illegal use by ski-resorts, golf courses and bath houses. Currently, the average share of water resources per person in Beijing is only one eighth of the average per capita in the rest of country, and one thirtieth of the average per capita globally.