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LESSONS:

Songhua River Flood Management Sector Project

sector: Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Rural Development | country: China, People’s Republic of

Flood Management Related

The project provides useful lessons on the process of changing institutional and policy making mindsets, in this specific instance in relation to flood management. Prior to the project, flooding was often perceived solely as an agent of damage and disruption to human settlement and socioeconomic activities, and even a cause of human casualties in the People’s Republic of China (PRC). People, however, now realize that floods (in particular more frequent and smaller freshwater floods), sustain ecosystems and the services that ecosystems provide. The benefits of floods also include recharging ground water, maintaining river courses, making soil more fertile, purifying water, and sustaining natural habitats. The old belief that floods should be fought and controlled by construction of dams, dikes, and bypass channels was misleading. Furthermore, continuously strengthening and extending structural flood defenses is unsustainable economically, environmentally, and in terms of social equity.

The flood management approach accepts that certain parts of the landscape will occasionally be flooded and seeks to reduce the ultimate cost to society. This includes taking measures to prevent floods from becoming disasters, anticipating worst-case scenarios, and identifying opportunities for conveying the resultant flood wave through the river system in a safe and largely predictable manner. The approach incorporates structural measures, but only as part of a larger strategy that includes: (i) flood proofing important structures and implementing land use controls; (ii) establishing flood forecasting, risk assessment, and warning systems; (iii) preparing emergency responses and flood recovery measures; and (iv) creating financial incentives such as flood insurance and eco-compensation. Risk assessment is essential for flood management, and the project significantly improved the Songliao Water Resources Commission’s (SWRC) capacity for flood forecasting and risk assessment through the development of the Songhua River Basin Flood Management System.

The concept of integrated water resource management and the river basin management approach were recognized and put into practice by the PRC as adaptive processes. The government took steps to achieve such change. The Songhua River Basin Flood Management Master Plan was prepared first, and then the Songhua River Basin Comprehensive Plan was formulated. In regard to policy implementation, the flood forecasting, risk assessment, and warning systems were completed first, and the actions on flood retention area and flood insurance development are still ongoing.

The project advanced these reforms and helped to develop a new way of thinking about floods and their broader ecological significance in the Songhua River basin. The government agencies involved in the Songhua River basin have shifted their approach from only structural measures for flood control to a balanced approach using both structural and non- structural measures. However, there remains room for improvement in the development of different types of non-structural measures. In the next phase, basin flood management needs to evolve into integrated flood management, which not only aims to reduce the human and socioeconomic losses from flooding but also to increase the social, economic, and ecological benefits from floods and the use of floodplains.

Project Management Related

The lessons learned in project design and implementation include: (i) complicated implementation arrangements for future projects should be avoided to reduce challenges and increase efficiency in project implementation; (ii) domestic approval procedures and timelines for subprojects should be carefully reviewed and adequately factored into project schedules so that the schedules can be adhered to; and (iii) in addition to the training on consultant recruitment, ADB should also provide executing agencies (EAs) with adequate training in consulting service contract management to ensure cost effective and quality consulting services.

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