Sanjiang Plain Wetlands Protection Project
sector: Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Rural Development | country: China, People’s Republic of
1. Performance targets and indicators for impact, outcome, and outputs should be realistic and measurable through local efforts, particularly when a target or an indicator has a global perspective. Baseline indicators and targets for project performance, including environmental management, should be developed during project preparation.
2. Monitoring methods and frequencies need to be defined and agreed upon by the government and ADB at the beginning of a project, and followed during implementation by the executing or implementing agencies, to ensure the reliability and replicability of the monitoring data and the effectiveness of the project completion evaluation.
3. To protect and restore wetlands, strong political support, including funding for nature reserves, is important. To disseminate lessons learned more widely and to help high-level decision making, executing agencies must publish policy briefs.
4. The most successful elements of the project were those that had been discussed with the relevant authorities at an early stage so that plans developed under the project could feed into government plans. This provided a lasting and replicable impact from the project. Examples are the work with the water authorities on water allocation for the nature reserves, and the work with the tourism authorities on ecotourism development.
5. The steering committee established under the project effectively acted as an inter-agency working committee, with authorization from and representation across various sectors such as land, water, fisheries, and agriculture to coordinate wetland protection efforts. To ensure coordination on inter-sector activities in future projects, such a committee or similar agency should be established before project start-up.
6. The consulting services for project implementation designed during project preparation did not meet the needs during implementation. This usually happens because needs change over time. To avoid having to undertake contract variations to correct this balance, an approach used in European Union contracts would have allowed greater flexibility; bidders for consulting services are typically evaluated on a small number of long-term key experts; while short-term expertise is not defined in the bidding but decided upon during implementation based on agreed work plans and government demands.
This validation concurs with the lessons highlighted in the project completion report (PCR), particularly on the need for similar projects to better define the monitoring method on biodiversity indicators, and for a policy brief to be prepared to disseminate more widely the lessons learned and to help in high- level decision making. In this project, it becomes clear that the most successful elements of the project were those that could feed into the government plan at early project preparation phase, so these could be incorporated into the government development plan. The project steering committee (PSC) effectively acted as an interagency working committee, and further validates the lesson that such a committee should be established early before project start-up. Other lessons identified, however, were not particularly insightful, such as the call for a realistic setting of performance targets, and the need for a strong political support to sustain improvement in nature reserves.
On the resettlement aspect, this validation concurs with the lessons highlighted in the PCR, where successful resettlement was realized due to good planning, government support, extensive consultation with affected communities, and close supervision. The project was able to transform the livelihood of the affected people from activities that caused environmental degradation to those that support nature conservation, through greater income reliance on non-timber forest products (NTFPs), use of intensive farming practices to reduce water use, and availability of ecotourism as a source of income. The experience showed that resettlement can be done properly without serious conflicts, as long as beneficiaries are involved in all stages of planning and implementation. Changing of livelihoods, which is usually considered as difficult particularly from farm to nonfarm (ecotourism), were properly implemented in this project, while maintaining or even increasing income levels. The PCR highlighted three key lessons in which this validation concurs: (i) the policy support lasts longer than one-time cash compensation; (ii)thecombination of proper restoration sites and the proper development of alternative livelihoods can ensure watershed and wetland protection, while maintaining livelihoods and incomes; and (iii) non-cash compensation for eco-resettlement sometimes achieve better results than cash compensation.
Strong leadership and ownership, as evidenced through the commitment of the provincial and county governments along with backing from the central government, undoubtedly contributed to the project’s overall success.
The survey and focus group discussions with affected people during this evaluation, which yielded high satisfaction rates in response to the project, clearly demonstrated that the project’s pioneering and successful provision of alternative livelihoods through noncash compensation or in-kind support can work in wetland restoration projects.
Projects aimed at achieving ecological and biodiversity gains, in this case for migratory birds and wetland species, face significant monitoring challenges that should not be underestimated. Careful consideration of these challenges is required at the design phase of the project in terms of resources, training and technology.
The assessment of process efficiency highlighted the need for clear communication, understanding and training on administrative and financing arrangements during the design of co-financed projects, particularly for complex natural resource management projects such as this, to avoid subsequent delays in implementation.