By Sunil Kumar, HSBC Water Programme Award winner, India
Even as I was flying in to Wuhan yesterday, I was looking forward to listening and understanding about the partnership between HSBC and WWF to conserve the Yangtze. In my mind, there were so many questions on what issues were being addressed through the Yangtze Project, something that HSBC & WWF have been associated with for over 15 years now. A journey that, I was told, started very much from the city of Wuhan.
As Lei Gang, Senior Director, WWF China started to talk about the Yantze Project, I was transported back to the wetlands of Kunigal and Kokrebellur in India, around 80 km each from Bangalore city. As I heard more and more on the Yangtze Project, it brought back vivid memories of the work that we are doing under HSBC Water Programme, which we call “Aardrabhumi – Wetlands for Life (AWFL)”.
In fact, for me it just felt like Lei Gang was presenting about AWFL, only the names of cities and people were different. I kind of felt like I knew everything about the project - the issue, cause, effect and mitigation.
Isn’t it such a shame that two of the most populous nations in the world (~36% of world population and ~20% of world GDP) are bound together with similar stories of destruction of nature in the race to develop.
For me, the underlying story of these two projects clearly showcases greed and shortsightedness of us, the human race that has allowed the destruction and degradation of nature and natural habitats around wetlands, which are so necessary for our very own survival.
Both Yangtze and AWFL have seen degradation of the wetlands due to the development in the delta and catchment areas. Taking the case of Dongting lake in Wuhan, China, the overall catchment of both of these wetlands have shrunk by over 50%... While it took 200 years in the case of Dongting, the degradation happened in just 30 years in case of AWFL. And the impact this has brought upon the residents of the area, be it humans or animals or birds or any other living creature, has been huge and possibly cannot be quantified in monetary terms. Despite such a huge cost, a majority of us do not even recognise the gravity of the issue and continue to contribute towards the problem rather than the solution.
Even as I completed an extremely informative and eye opening first day here in Wuhan, I cannot help but ask why we are bearing the cost of this so called development to the Mother Nature? While development is essential, can’t development and nature co-exist harmoniously? Can’t we enjoy the fruits of both development and Mother Nature?
I am sure we can.
While the day started with me being pessimistic listening to what we have done to our wetlands, as the day wound up, I am more optimistic now, having seen what HSBC and WWF have jointly done with the Yangtze Project and the positive impact it has created.
In fact for me, the Yantze and AWFL projects are two great examples of this co-existence. Something that should change the way we look at and execute development.
I am more than convinced today that these projects (and many many others as well) are a testimony to the fact that when two great organisations (HSBC and WWF) join hands, then there is no limit to what we can do to bring a change in this sphere.
I will stop for now. Given what WWF China team has planned for tomorrow, need to catch some sleep before we start the journey to Honghu and YueYang on Day Two of my Yangtze Journey…!
American photographer Mustafah Abdulaziz presents images from an ongoing study of the global water crisis