By Davy Yan, RBWM representative, HSBC China

I was born in Shanghai, where Yangtze River passes through, before reaching the East China Sea. Since  primary school, we have learned to treat Yangtze as our "Mother River" and be proud of many gifts it brings to us. We drink its fresh water, build largest inner river port on it, consume fish cultivated from its water system, and more recently utilize the electricity power generated from the Three Gorges Dam. For years, we have been taking all these benefits for granted.  However in reality, tremendous efforts are being taken to enable Yangtze ecosystem to sustain these functions, even by people thousands of miles away from us:  How to improve the water connectivity between Yangtze and the nearby lakes to protect the biodiversity of fish? How to encourage the feed of natural grass to produce healthier fish and avoid ultra nutrition in water quality? How to enhance waste water treatment by textile plants in the industry park where hundreds tons of fresh water are utilized everyday?

HSBC has partnered with WWF since 2002 to support Yangtze River ecosystem projects. The scope covers the entire Yangtze river basin and cooperation with extensive stakeholders. From the trip we have met with farmers, villagers, wetland staff, reserve land management and government agency officials. The complexity of ecosystem improvement needs common awareness, alignment of interests and joint efforts.

Today is the last day of our trip, we are in Shanghai now! In the morning we drove to Chongming Island, it's right in the middle of Yangtze estuary, and can be accessed by a 25km tunnel and bridge express way. Chongming is the backyard of Shanghai, there are only agricultural land, national park and wetland on the island. In the east of island there is the Dongtan Bird Natural Reserve,  which is the project under joint  management by WWF. This piece of wetland is on the midway of East Asia to Australia fly way. Ms Liu Jieyun of WWF, a "bird girl", has spent her time at wetland for monitoring the bird species and was our guide today. WWF has also been running training courses (including train the trainer programme) as well as public engagement activities out of this wetland. On top of this, under HSBC support, WWF has trained up 3000 wetland professionals in Hong Kong.

Today is also a day of sharing by Water Programme Award winners and WWF team. Sunil Kumar introduced the rain water storage project for villagers out of Bangalore, India, who have been suffered from shortage of fresh water. Yudhi Sutrisna taught us how to adapt to light for shooting photography.  Sun Xiaodong shared a collection of professional pictures of Taihu lake area which is the village where he lives. Over there people's life is closely attached to the river and lake in four ways: people use the water for cooking, drinking and cleaning; people travel on water; people harvest from water to produce food, just to mention a few: sweet green rice ball, salted duck egg, mung bean soup, and June hairy crab.  In addition, flooding is part of life that each household must deal with.

In the afternoon, we went deep into the wetland to discover the birds. The wetland management is all about keeping people away and letting birds feed themselves? Wrong, it's more than that! Spartina, an invasive grass, has posed great threat to local species. It has no natural enemy, it's not edible by fish or bird, and most importantly, it grows fast and in high density that will keep other aquatic plants out. According to Jieyun, WWF, Spartina must be cut away twice a year otherwise it will occupy the entire wetland and stop birds coming. But how does  it come from America to the many coastal areas of East Asia? Answer is it was imported for the purpose of embankment but people did not realize that it would affect the survival of local species. Ecosystem is of such tremendous complexity and human beings must always think more before taking any efforts to try to change it.

 Sturgeon Pavilion at Yangtze Estuary Nature Reserve © Davy Yan 

The surprise of the day was the visit to the pavilion of Chinese Sturgeon, a species in danger but over one hundred sturgeon are now living here.

For me, the trip is a great learning experience, I myself am part of Yangtze ecosystem, I am a beneficiary of any ecological improvement in Yangtze. I feel honoured to be able to join in the HSBC Water Programme winners' trip to China. The trip ends today, but a new journey just starts,  to engage more of our staff, our customers, and integrate the programme with our business.

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