Final Evaluation for Wetlands portfolio - Hubei Province

Report Cover Image
Evaluation Plan:
2016-2020, China
Evaluation Type:
Final Project
Planned End Date:
04/2019
Completion Date:
10/2018
Status:
Completed
Management Response:
Yes
Evaluation Budget(US $):
35,000

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Title Final Evaluation for Wetlands portfolio - Hubei Province
Atlas Project Number: 00072714
Evaluation Plan: 2016-2020, China
Evaluation Type: Final Project
Status: Completed
Completion Date: 10/2018
Planned End Date: 04/2019
Management Response: Yes
Corporate Outcome and Output (UNDP Strategic Plan 2018-2021)
  • 1. Output 1.4.1 Solutions scaled up for sustainable management of natural resources, including sustainable commodities and green and inclusive value chains
SDG Goal
  • Goal 15. Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
SDG Target
  • 15.1 By 2020, ensure the conservation, restoration and sustainable use of terrestrial and inland freshwater ecosystems and their services, in particular forests, wetlands, mountains and drylands, in line with obligations under international agreements
Evaluation Budget(US $): 35,000
Source of Funding:
Evaluation Expenditure(US $): 32,720
Joint Programme: No
Joint Evaluation: No
Evaluation Team members:
Name Title Email Nationality
Sun Chenxi Ms sdhjghyscx@163.com
Alan Ferguson Mr alan@regionalconsulting.ca
GEF Evaluation: Yes
GEF Project Title: CBPF-MSL: Strengthening the Management Effectiveness of the Wetland Protected Area System in Hubei Province, China
Evaluation Type: Terminal Evaluation
Focal Area: Biodiversity
Project Type: FSP
GEF Phase: GEF-5
GEF Project ID: 4870
PIMS Number: 4823
Key Stakeholders: Ministry of Environment
Countries: CHINA, PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC
Lessons
Findings
1.

3. Evaluation Findings

3.1 Project Formulation

3.1.1 Country ownership

There is a high level of country ownership based on the strong interest and commitment from all levels. The project document points out that the project is well aligned with the 12th National Five-year Plan (2011-2015) that supports biodiversity conservation, strengthening monitoring in Nature Reserves (NR) and improving their management and protection. The project assists the State Forestry Administration (SFA) target to protect 55% of the natural wetlands in China by the end of 2015, and the National Biodiversity Conservation Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP 2011-2030). It is part of the China Biodiversity Partnership and Framework for Action (CBPF), which is China’s primary investment strategy for biodiversity conservation through the GEF and other partners. Central government policy directives have generated new laws and initiatives at expanding and upgrading WPAs. China’s wetlands protection policy was established in the 2013 Regulations for Conservation and Management of Wetlands and the introduction of ecological redlines that identify wetlands designated for protection. The government also established the National Wetland Conservation Program (2004-2030) with a long-term goal of establishing 713 wetland reserves or wetland conservation sites by 2030, including 80 wetland sites of international importance and to effectively protect more than 90% of natural wetlands by 2030. Hubei Province implemented the system of Lake/River Heads to lead wetland protection and restoration, adopted the Lake Protection Regulations of Hubei Province and established 3 International Important Wetlands, 5 National Wetland Nature Reserves, 11 Nature Reserves at provincial level, 8 at municipal and county levels and 27 Wetland Protection Plots.4 The development of wetland management capacity is therefore a national and provincial priority and the project has played a key role in the evolution of the national biodiversity conservation partnership and the related GEF/UNDP Main Streams of Life Programme. The Hubei Government has made major changes to settlements, infrastructure, institutions and regulations as a result of the project, reflecting a deep commitment to the aims of the project. 


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3.1.5 Cost-effectiveness

The leveraging of huge co-financing (Annex 7) suggests cost-effective use of GEF funds based on the assumption that such national financing would not have occurred without GEF. The project document stated that “the relatively small investment is targeted to catalyze a substantial course change.” Paramount was the desire to build the regulatory, management and financial capacity required for China to independently maintain effective conservation efforts. This catalytic effect and sustainability measures make the GEF investment highly costeffective, assuming that GEF involvement is a limiting factor in the results achieved. Cost effectiveness was also enhanced by the government implementation procedures. In the view of the National Consultant, the implementation of the proposed projects is guaranteed as the management plans have set out clear projects timing, budgets and implementing bodies (Annex 9). In addition, in order to make sure the projects are carried out in an efficient and timely manner, the plans contain safeguard measures, such as integrating wetland conservation into government agendas and establishing a working mechanism summarized as "government lead, sectors cooperate, private sectors participate", to integrate wetland conservation indicators and completion of projects into government program KPI evaluation processes. All to ensure that commitments made and actions proposed are firmly implemented and controls are in place to monitor and ensure success. Aspects of project delivery efficiency are discussed in section 3.3.6. 

3.1.6 UNDP comparative advantage The strengths of UNDP as the GEF implementing agency are based on the long history of UN support to the Government of China on sustainable development issues, the UNDP international experience with capacity development programs, and the agency’s ability to access international expertise on wetland and biodiversity conservation. UNDP has had a long history of supporting protected area systems worldwide.8 UNDP has been operating in China for over 37 years, and engaged in GEF projects since 1991, including assistance with the 1994 Biodiversity Conservation Action Plan and the 2005 China Biodiversity Partnership Framework.9 UNDP China had previously implemented the China Wetland Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Use Project. 

3.1.7 Linkages between project and other interventions in the sector The project is aligned with the China Biodiversity Partnership and Framework for Action (CBPF), China’s primary investment strategy for biodiversity conservation through GEF and other partners. The main linkages are to other UNDP program activities in the China Biodiversity Partnership Framework-Mainstream of Life) programme (CBPF-MSL) involving six UNDP and one FAO wetland conservation projects. Exchange of information and experience is presumed to have occurred as per the Project Organisation (Figure 2). No documents were available on the level of experience-sharing but one international symposium was held in December 2017 to review achievements to date. WWF are involved in the Yangtze Eco-regional Action Program and the Central and Lower Yangtze and Yangtze Estuary Conservation Strategy and Honghu Lake restoration. The Hubei PMO also worked closely with the Hubei Wildlife Conservation Association to organize educational and scientific events. As leading GEF agency for the MSL Programme, UNDP plays key roles to coordinate SFA, FAO wetland project, and other related provinces involved in wetland conservation.

3.1.8 Analysis of Results Framework The results framework provides a coherent structure aimed at increasing the capacity at Provincial, water basin and PA levels to identify and alleviate threats to wetland conservation. The outputs are effectively aligned with the outcomes with a focus on institutional development, conservation strategies and policy and planning frameworks. This is a clear and effective design to address the issues from a comprehensive approach at different levels. More elaboration of the expected end results and targets would have been useful, especially on the provincial and basin strategies and the related capacities needed to implement them. This was a central observation in this TE – such strategies need to be based on a good understanding of hydrological and ecological processes that drive wetland processes and frame management objectives. This is especially the case for wetlands in an active state of ecological succession. Suggestions for improving the quality of the strategies and plans are offered in Section 3.3.3. 

Key assumptions and risks in the Results Framework The key assumptions that stakeholder and government support for improving wetland conservation will remain steadfast in light of development pressures have been validated. This support has been bolstered by Central government policies on ‘eco-development’ and wetland protection. The replication assumption that contracting service providers to produce a number of project outputs, such as "Wetland Conservation and Restoration Implementation Plan" and "Management Guidelines on Wetland Parks of Hubei Province”, that can then be readily copied by other basins and PAs in the province may be questionable. The key risks in the project design relate to government coordination and support from development sectors, financing to assist wetland conservation, and external environmental risks from invasive species and climate change. These have not so far, hampered implementation of the project. The large number of projects proposed for wetland conservation and enhancement (Annex 8 and 9) nevertheless will need to be carefully coordinated under a well-defined common strategy for the basin and wetland. The indicators for measuring progress are mostly quantitative rating indicators. The quality and use of these are discussed under M&E in Section 3.2.5 below. 

 


4.

3.2 Project Implementation

3.2.1 Executing agencies and implementation modalities

The project was mainly implemented by PMO, which was based in Hubei Forestry Department. The PMO has two major responsibilities. One was to work closely with the PSC and coordinate with different PSC members to make sure wetland conservation is mainstreamed into different government sectors on the provincial level. Another responsibility was to oversee project implementation and to provide quality assurance for service providers. Different WPA management authorities, through PMO, interact with service providers to make sure the management plans, business plans generated by the service providers can best suit their requirements. 

Hubei Forestry Department has been heavily involved and greatly dedicated to the execution of the project. The project manager, who is also the deputy director of Hubei Wildlife Conservation Center (component office of Hubei Forestry Department, where the PMO office is based), works on this project full-time. His duty is to oversee the project implementation and provide quality assurance. The project manager works closely with project CTA to provide technical guidance and framework to service providers and makes sure the outputs can meet project requirements. All the outputs from the service providers such as management plans and business plans are all required to submit to PMO, who later submit to PSC, for preliminary checking, then submitted to Hubei Forestry Department for approval before they can be officially issued. This approach was strictly followed by all service providers and all of the outputs were approved and issued by Hubei Forestry Department. The project implementation approach has depended heavily on many contractors (service providers) to deliver various technical outputs (Table 3) with necessary support on a part-time basis by the CTA(s) and guidance from the Project Management Office and the Project Steering Committee. This contrasts with other approaches where CTAs play a more full-time role and technical contractors usually have a more limited scope of work to provide specific activities. The typical GEF project delivery model strives for hands-on involvement of the executing agency, direct management guidance and supervision, and more experiential learning-by-doing within the organisation. The MTR report alluded to issues of coordination of the service providers, but the concerns may more broadly relate to the overall design of the project capacity development strategy. There were some limitations in the ability of one CTA to serve six projects as noted at midterm. 12 This led to appointment of new CTAs but these may not have been enough to provide full detailed peer review of outputs produced by the service providers. One CTA expert in the first half of the project covered this and 5 other projects, and two CTAs in the second half covered three projects each. No major issues were identified with regard to contracting modalities from the perspective of the participating agencies or UNDP. 

3.2.2 Coordination and operational issues The Project Steering Committee (PSC) acts as the final decision maker and coordinator of the project. It was formed with representatives from various organizations carrying certain voting weight. The departments include Forestry Department, Development and Reform Commission, Environmental Protection Department, Finance Department, Agriculture Department, Water Resources Department, Natural Resources Department, demonstration PAs as well as UNDP. The PSC met on five occasions, each year beginning in June 2014. The project document specified the role of PSC to include (i) overseeing project implementation; (ii) approving annual project work plans and budgets that are proposed by the Project Manager (PM), for submission to UNDP; (iii) approving any major changes in project plans or programs; (iv) providing technical input and advice; (v) approving major project deliverables; (vi) ensuring commitment of resources to support project implementation; (vii) arbitrating any conflicts within the project and/or negotiating solutions between the project and any parties beyond the scope of the project; (viii) ensuring coordination amongst member agencies, and (ix) overall project evaluation. The project has also established consultative groups on the provincial, basin and PAs levels. The consultative groups encourage and promote wider participation of stakeholders from all levels in wetland related decision-making. The consultative groups include representatives from development sectors such as water resources and tourism, and they facilitate the design, formulation and implementation of the wetland conservation plans, which brought in more openness and inclusion of project implementation. On the PA levels, actions are taken to involve more WPA users into the decision making process. The national consultant believes the operation of the project is effective. As stated in the Audit Report prepared by Mazars Certified Public Accountants, “the implementing partner is Forestry Department of Hubei Province. The project internal control system was effective in providing useful and timely information for the project management and was generally effective in protecting the assets and resources of the project”. 13 The comments from auditors for this project are significantly better than the other projects (national consultant comment). 

The PMO placed great emphasis on coordination and cooperation with other government sectors. The deputy director of the project board, director of Hubei Wildlife Center, was fully engaged in this job. He has worked closely with the provincial government and other government sectors such as environmental protection department, water resources department, development and reform commission, finance department and others. Coordination for this project is very effective as comprehensive plans such as "Wetland conservation and restoration implementation plan" were officially issued by the provincial government as collectively agreed upon by all government sectors and other plans such as the management plans and business plans for individual PAs were all approved and issued by respective management authorities. The many proposed projects identified in a general way in these management plans have huge implications for future investments by government.

3.2.3 Management by the UNDP Country and Regional Offices UNDP had responsibility for (i) providing financial and audit services to the project; (ii) overseeing financial expenditures against project budgets approved by PSC; (iii) appointment of independent financial auditors and evaluators; and (iv) ensuring that all activities including staff and equipment procurement and financial services are carried out in strict compliance with UNDP/GEF procedures. The UNDP country office in China has acted as implementing agency for several GEF-financed biodiversity projects, and has a wealth of global experience to draw from. 

UNDP performance was examined in terms of (a) responses to the MTR, (b) quality assurance on technical work, (c) procurement and administrative/financial processes, and (d) reporting effectiveness and timeliness. Overall, the project participants interviewed by the TE consultants were satisfied with their collaboration with UNDP and the GEF/UNDP procedures, although some found the reporting requirements complicated and onerous. The UNDP Technical Advisor commented in PIR reporting that there are excellent relationships between the PMU, the Hubei Forestry Department and UNDP China that are underpinning effective implementation. UNDP management has provided timely support to the executing agency and project team. They have been highly appreciated by PMO especially for their assistance in quality assurance, risk management, financial management and annual reporting. In addition, procurement of consultants and financial support was also provided by UNDP country office to the PMO. Training and guidance were provided to project staff on the GEF/UNDP administrative processes. No major comments were made by the auditors about management of the project. With respect to gender mainstreaming, it was suggested in the comments on the Draft TE Report that more strategic support would be advisable from UNDP, to assist the PMO in integrating gender and minority development objectives into the implementation.

The $700,000 cash contribution to the project from UNDP, (Project Document, page 50) has not been included in budget and expenditure reporting due to lack of data. This is clearly a grant from UNDP resources14 and it is therefore shown as a completed grant on Table 5 although details of this contribution to the project are vague. Expenditures of $350,000 were reported at mid-term and presumably the $700,000 has been delivered by project completion through the Coca-Cola Foundation donation for water management activities in China. The Safeguards Screening determined that “the project would not result in substantial involuntary resettlement”. Resettlement by government, separate from the project, has been essential to save Honghu Lake and the government has provided substantial replacement housing and compensation for lost assets as well as alternative employment efforts. 

 

 


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6.

3.2.6 Monitoring plan at entry and in implementation

The M&E plan was developed using the standard template for GEF-financed projects. The indicative budget for the M&E plan was USD 125,000, excluding PMO and UNDP staff time and travel expenses. This sum is approximately 5% of the USD 2.65 M GEF grant, which is reasonable. In addition to the USD 45,000 for MTR and TE, the project budgeted USD 20,000 for field visits to projects sites as routine monitoring process. However, the project document did not provide for an M&E officer. The major M&E activities for the project included inception workshop, two-year project work plan, quarterly/annually project reports (QPR, APR), Project Implementation Report (PIR), routine monitoring by field visits, mid-term review, terminal evaluation and knowledge sharing. The performance ratings in the annual PIR reports and the MTR and TE are similar - ‘Satisfactory’. The MTR report stated that “most of the weaknesses in the M&E systems relate to the design of the Results Framework and to UNDP's quarterly and annual progress reporting formats.”16 The “number of hectares to achieve ecosystem functionality” under the Objective was not quite the same as number hectares under PA status. The project did not have a designated monitoring officer during the early years of the project, but that was corrected following the MTR, along with improvements in the reporting system. The project issued quarterly and annual reports in a timely manner as required by UNDP/GEF. The role of the monitoring officer has been to track the indicators and to prepare the reporting. It is useful to consider in future projects that this role include spot-checking of implementation completion and quality, and trouble-shooting liaison with field level participants and beneficiaries (especially to improve the links with external service providers). 

Indicators quality and use The indicators in the project document place a high dependence on general indices (METT, EHI). The rating systems are mandatory under UNDP/GEF projects so these comments relate to project design aspects. The quantitative indices have distinct limitations as measures of progress towards outcomes (end results). EHI ratings improved by an average 61% (22-87% range amongst PAs); METT scores increased on average by 67% (35-104% range).17 Table 2 in UNDP-GEF: Strengthening the Management Effectiveness of the Wetland PAS in Hubei Province shows growth in EHI values in the eight nature reserves with six of them in the 60-87% range. What is the main explanation for the reported 87% improvement in the ecosystems of Tian’ezhou Lake in the past five years? How has this affected the population of resident dolphin? Does WWF China agree with this conclusion? The point here is that these numbers must be complemented by some site verification before they are used as the sole basis for determining results: context is important in evaluating specific projects.

The concerns about specific qualifiers on data accuracy, reliability and potential for project activity bias (temporary effects of a project), some of which emerge from site interviews, are often not captured by such high-level indicators. Ratings that simply record or reflect completion of project outputs (e.g., valuation study, management plans, business plans, etc.) may give a misleading measure of outcomes. The project has tried to improve the indicator parameters and performance data in the project design, and to enhance the monitoring information. The implication from the TE mission discussions and review is that indicators of ecosystem health and management capacity need to provide enough qualifiers on the data to reflect the complexity of actual conditions and risks on the ground.

The indicators in the project document depend heavily on general indices (METT, EHI, Financial Scorecard) to measure progress towards outcomes (end results). Numbers dominate the progress monitoring (see Annex 6). The quantitative measures have distinct limitations. Some indicators simply record completion of outputs (e.g., valuation study, management plans, etc.). There is no baseline or performance data on number of trainees meeting competency standards; it’s not clear what particular sector plans are expected to incorporate conservation measures. The result of these limitations is a very approximate set of measures to gauge progress on the three outcomes. Many of the quantitative indicators provide only course, generalized rating of results; they are adequate for comparing PA management levels but are unable to capture changes in specific capabilities between moderate and high ratings or the particular details of actual scope of capabilities. E.g., high Capacity Scorecard ratings are tempered by the adjoining ‘evaluative comments’ column in the tables that highlight weaknesses. Secondly, many of the indicators reflect outputs generated by contractors rather than PA staff capacity to use such outputs to achieve the expected outcomes.


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8.

3.3 Project Results

3.3.1 Effectiveness: Project objective

Annex 6 summarizes the targets and achievements per the project logframe. The project has effectively achieved and exceeded the targets. 

Table 6 below shows the current status of the protected areas. The size of the eight major wetland PAs increased 22% over the baseline 158,000 ha recorded in the Project Document (p. 12).18 Total number of staff increased from 258 to 264, and the annual budget increased from $13 M to 16.8 M.19 If these numbers are accurate, PA staff have not increased commensurate with the growth of PA area and budgets. Among the 8 demonstration sites, the maximum METT score was observed in Shishou Milu PA with a Terminal Evaluation (TE) value of 82. The minimum METT score was observed in Danjiangkou PA with a TE value of 47. The average increase in METT score for all the 8 demonstration sites was 67.23%, which has exceeded the project target. The Project Final Report notes that “Honghu Nature Reserve has carried out various engineering projects to promote wetland conservation and restoration, and the METT score has increased by 61.7% over the course of the project.” 20 The quantitative ratings of ecosystem health, PA management effectiveness and budget allocations for wetland management reflect significant improvement in overall wetland management. 

3.3.2 Effectiveness: Outcome 1 - Provincial Level Capacity

Annex 6 summarizes the main achievements, which include a long list of studies and proposed programs to advance wetland conservation. The direct involvement of the provincial authorities has helped to drive the significant progress. It was highlighted that the support of high level decision makers in the Hubei government made it possible to coordinate the many agencies. Table 7 summarizes the "percentage of annual financing allocated by the Government of China to cover the cost of implementing WPA wetlands conservation strategy in Hubei Province". The total budget has increased 124% from $7.4 M to $16.56 M. Only Xinluoduan and Danjiangkou have not seen increased budgets.

The numbers for "total hectares of wetlands protected in Hubei Province managed to achieve ecosystem functionality showing marked reduction in threats of degradation of wetlands and over-exploitation" are estimated to have increased by 13% over baseline status to 282,246 ha in newly established, upgraded and expanded PAs. The total area of wetland under protection increased by 315,294 ha during the project. 22 Relevant provincial and departmental plans prepared and approved included: - Implementation plan of wetland conservation and restoration in Hubei Province - Implementation plan of the wetland conservation and restoration engineering works in the 13th five year period - 13th five year plan of forestry development of Hubei Province - Water Pollution Prevention Work Plan of Hubei Province.

The Outcome 1 result of “provincial policy and planning framework adopted and funded by relevant provincial authorities mandating that all natural resource uses support maintenance and improvement of WPA ecosystem integrity” included: - Management Guidelines of Wetland Parks in Hubei Province - Management Guidelines on Ecological Redline of Hubei Province - Implementation of Comprehensive River and Lake Chief System - Notice on Complete Fishing Ban in Protected Areas in the Yangtze River Basin - Notice on Sand Mining Ban in River Channels of Hubei Province - Suggestions on Establishing and Improving Eco-Compensation Mechanism of Hubei Province In addition to the above, the project made major contributions to determining the Ecological Protection Red Line for Hubei (released July 2018) encompassing some 22% of the province and including six sensitive ecological areas. 

Two significant institutional changes have been to establish a provincial consultative group with official terms of reference approved by relevant provincial authorities, and an expert panel for the GEF project. The TE interviews indicated that consultations and participation of relevant departments focused on those responsible for reserves, and that there was less routine working relationships with Dept. of Water Resources, except on special projects (e.g. Liangzi Lake removal of embankments and East Lake-Shahe connecting canal). The Project Final Report identified three shortcomings: the need for more multisector cooperation and an increased number of model wetlands contributing to the provincial database (p. 28), and the need for increased management connections amongst nature reserves (p. 36).

The project conducted field visits and interviews to analyze the training needs of PA staff in the province. Based on this assessment, the project formulated " Training plan for GEF wetland project of Hubei Province". The plan included the following: project background, training objective, training targets, capacity assessment of training target, needs assessment of training targets, training materials for provincial, basin, PA and PMO staff, timeframe and budgeting of training, maintenance, update and sharing of training materials.

More than 220 people have been trained in WPA management, according to the TE interviews, and 39 ‘trainings’ of various sorts involving 1151 participants have been recorded.23 Trainings were delivered according to a training plan. Among them, 37 were women, counting for 17% of the trainees. The trainings covered a number of wetland conservation fields, including wetland knowledge, biodiversity monitoring, biodiversity conservation, GPS application and data analysis, acquisition of biodiversity image and processing, wetland management and co-management, identification of wetland birds and field practice, formulation of wetland conservation plans, monitoring of wetlands and database technology. The interviews with WPA staff indicated that basic training had been provided and more advanced training was needed, along with increased cooperation on compiling data from different agencies, filling information gaps on international flyways, resolving land use issues in the experimental zone, and more attention to protecting riverine habitats, etc.

The training materials were compiled to produce " Wetland ecosystem management training textbook of Hubei Province". The major content includes integrated management of wetland ecosystems, wetland bird monitoring and management, wetland birds identification, wetland mammals monitoring, wetlands amphibian monitoring, wetland fish monitoring and management, wetland vegetation monitoring and management, conservation and application of Ramsar sites, comanagement and photography of WPA.


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3.3.3 Effectiveness: Outcome 2 - Basin Level Capacity

Annex 6 summarizes the main achievements. The main focus has been “to complete, adopt and finance a model intra-basin wetlands conservation strategy” for Sihu Basin as the water-basin for Honghu Lake. The “Wetland Conservation Action Plan of Sihu Drainage Basin” was prepared in early 2018 and subsequently approved by Honghu Drainage Basin Co-management Committee. The plan is a collective effort from Jingzhou municipal government, Honghu National Nature Reserve Management Agency, Jingzhou development and reform commission, Jingzhou environmental protection agency, Jingzhou public security agency, Jingzhou transportation agency, Jingzhou tourism authority, Jingzhou finance department, Jingzhou water resources department, Jingzhou natural resources department, Jingzhou forestry department, and etc. 

Annex 7 describes the proposed goals, actions and projects for Sihu Basin. This strategic framework provides a scoping of the basin-wide actions needed to conserve and restore the wetlands. The estimated cost is 1.65 Billion RMB ($ 258 M USD), which is guaranteed by the Jingzhou Finance Department.24 The specific details on how these goals, actions and projects will be implemented remain to be developed during the implementation phase. Several suggestions for management planning were made in the technical report on Sihu Basin management plan.

The project also established the intra-basin wetlands conservation consultative group with official terms of reference approved by relevant provincial and eight county authorities. The “Honghu basin wetland conservation management committee” was established in December of 2014 by Jingzhou municipal government, which consists of a number of government sectors from different administrative areas in the basin. As the major barrier for wetland conservation on the basin level is the lack of coordination between different government sectors and among different administrative areas within the basin, the establishment of this group effectively reduced the difficulty on wetland conservation issues and has the potential to greatly improved the effectiveness of wetland management on the basin level. Significant work has been done in the basin to reduce the pollution level and restore its ecological functions. Major works done includes closing up and relocation of heavily polluting industries, blockage of wastewater discharge outlets, construction of wastewater treatment facilities, relocation and upscaling of livestock raising farms, closing up the lake for fishing resources restoration, seeding of selected species in the lake, replanting vegetation as well as water hyacinth removal. Water quality data were presented in the Final Project Report indicating an improvement from national Group IV to Group IV-III water quality objectives (whether the parameters and datasets are sufficient to measure water quality trends is a separate question). Large-scale removal of fishing nets has no doubt caused additional nutrients to be released from the shallow lake bottom, which is contributing to the reported increased growth of aquatic plants, including water hyacinth.

Socio-economic improvements to livelihoods (fishermen resettled on land provided with housing, livelihood transformation and living security) have less data available. Initially there were 1634 households 5762 fishermen living on Honghu Lake. The project target is to provide 25% of the fishermen with livelihood security. By the end of the project, 1462 apartments were provided to the resettled fishermen, living subsidies of 9.7 million RMB were provided, 19 technical trainings were delivered and 2639 fishermen were recommended to employment.26 However, the trainings on employment mainly focused on technical aspects even though the courses were designed according to the fishermen’s education levels and capabilities by the Human Resources Department, but the major problem for resettled fishermen, most of whom are in their 40s and above, is their low adaptability to a completely new lifestyle on the shore. Impact of the training on employment of displaced fishermen is not known.

The project has set up the planning framework and process for basin management. But this needs to be strengthened by: a) Well-defined watershed management strategies that outline the preferred hydrological and water balance scenario for major wetlands and their watersheds. Most wetland management programs begin with an analysis of the hydrological dynamics that establish the wetland characteristics. The International Consultant found that interviewees were unable to describe the overall water management strategy for the Sihu basin within the long list of objectives and actions or the connectivity scheme with other wetlands and Yangtze River.

b) Watershed and reserve management plans that provide sufficient details on objectives and how the wetland will be managed within the drainage system in a manner that is consistent with maintaining certain physical parameters [specify] and specific ecosystem or habitat characteristics [specify] through the following implementation strategies [specify]. For example, if “improving conditions for stork species is a wetland objective, how should lake levels and habitats be managed or enhanced to achieve this objective. This level of detail is missing in the current plans. 

 


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3.3.4 Effectiveness: Outcome 3 - PA Administration Capacity

Annex 6 summarizes the main achievements under Outcome 3, including significant increases in the capacity scorecard for institutional strengthening rising to 66-82% in the main departments responsible for PA management. The management plans for three PAs were prepared and training completed. Key features of the plans included botanical biodiversity investigation and water quality monitoring of Honghu, ecological valuation of Longganhu, and water level management among Tian’ezhou Nature Reserve, Milu Nature Reserve and surrounding community. New plans are under development at three other PAs. The business plans for Honghu nature reserve, Longganhu nature reserve and Tian'ezhou nature reserve were formulated as appendices of the management plans. The development of business plans was expected to result in a 25% increase in annual government financing for three demonstration WPAs - Honghu Nature Reserve, Longganhu Nature Reserve and Tian’ezhou Dolphin Nature Reserve. The initial annual government budget for these 3 PAs was $3.9 M USD; the Project Final Report (p. 32) states that these PAs now receive $32 M USD from government and private sectors.27 This is a 720 % increase.

Annex 9 describes the timeframe, budgets and implementation bodies of the management plans for 3 demonstration PAs. Some of the projects are already being implemented. Honghu Lake is a key site of the wetlands of Hubei. It was reported that 7.37 Billion RMB (>$1 Billion USD) has been spent in recent years removing 187,000 mu (12,467 ha) of fishing nets and over 6000 people living inside the lake and other interventions to save the lake from complete obliteration. The project formulated a "Master plan for Honghu National Nature Reserve (2016-2025)". The plan was peer reviewed by the expert panel and submitted to the State Forestry Authority (now the State Forestry and Grassland Authority) for approval. It also developed the Honghu Lake Management Plan with 19 Actions and a series of 64 projects with a budget of 1.07 M RMB (167.2 M USD) as outlined in Annex 9. The project has also set up a monitoring and patrolling database for the Honghu basin. User manual was developed and respective trainings of the database were conducted; the database has been officially accepted. 

Most of the reserve management plans follow a similar pattern - presenting longterm and operational objectives, actions and projects for achieving the actions. This framework provides a general scoping of proposed management activities. However, the overall hydrological system management strategies are not easily reflected in these documents. For example, the water management regime for Tian’ezhou Wetland28 , a key concern for balancing the complicated set of management objectives, is not included in the proposed 12 actions and 31 projects of the wetland management plan.29 In Honghu Lake Management Plan there is no documented hydrological management strategy, something that is important to answering critical questions within the vaguely defined management objectives (e.g., what is the optimum ecological balance for the lake?). The management plans are preliminary and further assessments are needed.

The International Consultant observes that many of the Hubei wetlands are former river channels that are in a process of natural succession. Wetland management plans should clearly define the end state that they are expecting from intervention/no intervention. E.g., the increasing aquatic plant growth that has accelerated in Honghu Lake may not be desirable in the long run even if it is currently popular. There is also insufficient consideration of the role that Hubei wetlands play in flood management under climate change scenarios, and the overall approach to enhanced connectivity with Yangtze flows has yet to be outlined. Limited assessment of hydrological impacts and issues has been completed. The hydrological dynamics and ‘room for the river’ concepts are not sufficiently recognized in the wetland management strategy. 

 


11.

3.3.6 Project Efficiency

The project outputs have been implemented in a generally efficient manner, with some delays faced in the early stages and more rapid completion of activities following the MTR. No significant operational inefficiencies were noted during the TE discussions. The multi-departmental coordination challenges are significant for wetlands and the PA staff capacity to utilize some of the many outputs may be questionable, all of which bear upon the efficiency of the implementation strategies. There is a reluctance to review the efficacy of the current project delivery model especially in regard to the predominant role of service providers.

To increase project efficiencies, full-time project staff persons were housed within the Hubei Forestry Department to make certain that the Department was “well positioned to absorb lessons learned and carry forward and expand the coverage of project outcomes and outputs.” 31 WPAs are administered by different departments and many of the project outputs have been delivered by external institutes and consultancies (service providers). The capacity of the Forestry Department to effectively coordinate wetland management initiatives with other departments and river/lake chiefs will take time to develop with experience. In many GEF projects, there are questions about the approach to which the knowledge, skills and advice from advisors and consultants can be effectively transferred to the staff at nature reserves who have the primary duty to enhance wetland management. 


12.

3.3.9 Sustainability of project results

In terms of sustaining policy and institutional results, the project has firmly established the legal and governance framework for conservation and restoration, which guarantees the continuation of wetland conservation in the province. In the view of the International consultant, the form of co-management and scope for community participation is still being developed and has yet to be finalized. The National consultant feels that the project annual meetings with over 100 participants including representatives of villagers, fishermen and other community members, is satisfactory co-management. In terms of environmental sustainability, there are some risks in that some of the wetlands are in a dynamic process of wetland succession toward semi-wetland or terrestrial status. There is limited understanding of hydrological processes that drive the wetland ecosystem characteristics and some uncertainties about the optimum management strategies to achieved vaguely-defined wetland objectives.

In terms of institutional sustainability, the policy and the legal and governance framework will ensure ongoing conservation and restoration activities with the government and legal commitment. With regard to co-management and community participation, the National Consultant notes that annual meetings are held with over 100 participants including representatives of villagers, fishermen and other community members, and considers this adequate though it can be further improved with higher efficiency. In terms of sustaining the progress in monitoring and management systems, the project has developed the demonstration models and related capacities for replication at provincial wetland sites, and these have a high potential for sustainability if PA authorities and staff can continue with the program after project closure and with adequate staff and resources. Financial sustainability has a high potential given the increases in PA budgets that have occurred in the past few years, provided they are available for management and operational purposes. Business plans at each wetland reserve will help to attract the necessary financial support.


13.

4. Rating of Project Performance

The criteria for rating GEF projects are provided in the UNDP/GEF evaluation guidelines. Table 8 provides a summary explanation of the reasons for the ratings. Table 8: Hubei Wetlands Project Rating 

Additional Notes: • Quality of Execution - Executing Agency National Consultant: rates HS for executing agency for the following reasons. The provincial government is heavily involved and committed to the project execution with direct contributions from various government sectors. Forestry Department, as the technical execution, has provided consistent and constructive guidance to the project, chairing the PSC and supporting implementation as needed. The PMO staff is highly qualified. The project director, the deputy director of the PMO has extensive work experience with Hubei government, and he has provided consistent and strong eadership as well as coordination to support the project implementation on daily basis. The project manager, who is one of the most recognized biodiversity expert (Rank II on national level) in the province was hired on project inception and remained on board since that time. He has chaired various number of biodiversity projects in the province. Project operational staff is always very responsive to both UNDP and consultants in providing requested documents with very high quality. The project CTA, Mr. Xue Dayuan, is a leading scientist and pioneer in China working on ecosystem services. He was highly appreciated by the PMO for providing highly professional and practical advice. Comments from auditor’s report show much better internal control than other projects. The project outputs significantly achieved its objectives with high quality. 

• Assessment of Outcomes – Effectiveness National consultant rates HS for outcome effectiveness for the following reasons. The major barriers identified in project design- lack of coordination between sectors, uniform wetland conservation strategy and low management capacity have all been effectively removed by the project outcome. The establishment of provincial consultative group on wetland directly by provincial government instead of these sectors along resulted in a much higher commitment of the entire province on wetland conservation. Directive from provincial government is the most effective means under Chinese system to ensure the effectiveness of project outcome. The plans generated by the project have clear timing, budget and implementing bodies, and some of these projects are already being implemented, which shows high effectiveness of the project outcome. 


14.

5. Lessons Learned

5.1 GEF Project Design and Implementation

• International projects in China provide not just funding, but more importantly, leveraging effects that generate increased awareness and financial contributions from Chinese partners and a greater profile and recognition than would normally occur with national projects. The Chinese co-financing tends to focus on staff, infrastructure and restoration costs rather than jointly funding the GEF capacity development activities (see Annex 7).

• The metrics for measuring PA management effectiveness (METT, etc.) at the PA level need more precision and ability to capture the specific capacity constraints identified by PA staff. The state of capacity at each reserve requires a more customized assessment of the management performance challenges.

• Despite training activities within some of the contracted components, the capacity building aspect to transfer skills and outputs from service providers into the PA authority partners is, in the view of the International Consultant, less certain when all the major technical work is out-sourced to consultants. 

• Wetland management plans should provide clear direction on managing the hydrological regime to serve particular conservation and other objectives. Many plans provide standardized goals and objectives, followed by a list of proposed projects but without specific strategies on how the hydrology and related ecosystems are to be managed to achieve certain optimum or desired ecosystem recovery conditions. The linkages between issues/threats and management strategy, as noted in the MTR, needs to be explicit in the project ‘theory of change’ and WPA management plans.

• Replication and scale-up processes needed to be better-defined in the project document. The design expectation was that demonstration projects would automatically inspire other PA improvements. Good dialogue and customized pathways are needed for the spread of proven methods and best practices. 


Recommendations
1

HUBEI Recommendation 1: The Hubei GEF Wetland Project Office should undertake and distribute a 'state of the wetland' report for Honghu Lake that identifies the limnological and ecological status of the lake and assesses the effectiveness and impact of the conservation programme.

Rationale: The ecosystem monitoring programme that has been developed by the project, along with studies undertaken by contractors should be able to usefully present the results of their inventory and monitoring data collection and analyses compiled in a report that summarizes the biophysical status of the lake. The Management Plan for Honghu Lake is two years into implementation with project support. Reliable data, drawn from recent limnological and biological surveys, would greatly assist public awareness about the recovering conditions of the lake and the threats which may still exist to the important wetland values of the lake. 

2

HUBEI Recommendation 2: The Honghu Drainage Basin Wetland Committee should undertake an independent technical review of the Wetland Action Plan of Sihu Drainage Basin, to ensure the feasibility of hydrological system improvements and to propose an implementation program.

Rationale: The Sihu drainage basin is important because of the six nature reserves within its boundaries, including Honghu Lake, and because it now has the first basin management committee in Hubei Province. This is intended as a model for other basins. There are complex issues and risks associated with the land use and hydrological changes and management interventions. Hydrological modelling of the complete system has not been undertaken. The limnological, hydrological and biological impacts of proposed strategies need to be further reviewed because of the high stakes involved in difficult trade-offs between objectives. In order to ensure feasibility and confidence in the next steps for implementation of the Action Plan, a brief technical review is needed by national or international water management engineers to further define and certify the hydrological scheme for multiple objectives (including flood management) and the subsequent tasks to be undertaken by the basin committee.

3

HUBEI Recommendation 3: The Hubei GEF Wetland Project Office should develop and implement a rigorous monitoring and evaluation plan for the Implementation Program of Wetland Conservation and Restoration System in Hubei.

Rationale: The “Hubei Wetland Conservation and Restoration System Implementation Program” has been formally adopted as reported in the Final Project Report (no document available). The project has developed an impressive set of high level and operational level plans and strategies, including “Nine Action Programs for Great Conservation of Yangtze River, Hubei Section”. Ecological environment protection plan of Yangtze River Economic Belt, Hubei Section, Ecological environment protection plan of Han River Economic Belt - Hubei Section (2014-2025), Regulation of Conservation of Ecological Red Line in Hubei, Opinions to strengthen the fishery ecological civilization by Hubei Fishery Bureau, Fully Implement Lake and River Chiefs System in Hubei Province, and the Overall Program of Rehabilitation of Farmlands, Rivers, Lakes, and Grasslands (2016-2030). A consolidated framework is needed for reliable monitoring and evaluation on progress and results reported to the Consultative Council on these initiatives.

4

HUBEI Recommendation 4: The Hubei GEF Wetland Project Office should review and clarify roles, responsibilities and protocols for biodiversity and water quality monitoring in the Shishou, and Tian’ezhou protected areas with the aim of enhancing technical cooperation between the Provincial agencies and the local township for a coordinated monitoring framework.

Rationale: The PAs have management issues that overlap and yet three different departments are responsible for these reserves. To improve effectiveness and efficiency in the monitoring functions, and in anticipation of future amalgamation of these reserves, greater collaboration on the technical, information gathering and data collection activities of the adjacent reserves should be encouraged under one coordinated monitoring system. 

5

HUBEI Recommendation 5: The Hubei GEF Wetland Project Office should establish a process, in conjunction with river/lake chiefs, for an annual socio-economic survey and report on the status of households displaced from the wetland nature reserves, housing and employment conditions, and any remaining resettlement issues (conducted and financed by government).

Rationale: There is no systematic post-resettlement data and only anecdotal information on how the households have adjusted to eviction. The government has made a major investment in removing development from wetlands; monitoring the results would assist resettlement and community involvement programs. A representative sample questionnaire of households should determine the effectiveness of compensation and job re-training programs, and lessons learned.

6

HUBEI Recommendation 6: The Hubei GEF Wetland Project Office should prepare a list of Biodiversity Research Priorities (themes and projects) in conjunction with PA management issues as a basis for future collaboration with universities (national and international).

Rationale: Nature reserves provide a means to advance knowledge about biodiversity and conservation/restoration issues and methods. Considerable information has been compiled by the project and the technical institutes should now be in a position to advise on research questions and opportunities to better understand the biodiversity resources and the options and impacts of conservation and management activities. A long-term partnership between research institutes and PAs of the province should be encouraged. The province has over 70 universities and research institutes. The academia in the province and PA staff should actively seek out opportunities for cooperation with or without government intervention so that the research can be bettered channeled to the PA authorities and staff. 

7

HUBEI Recommendation 7: The Hubei GEF Wetland Project Office should prepare a proposal for a bird watching guide service on Honghu Lake through retraining of displaced local fishermen, and wildlife viewing opportunities on the reserve boundaries.

Rationale: Any tourism use on Honghu Lake is controversial but careful consideration could be given to a limited and regulated guiding service that minimizes disturbances in the core zone and yet offers positive opportunities for local residents to become involved in assisting management of the reserve, promoting public education and potentially collecting wildlife observation data under guidance from PA staff. A carefully design wildlife viewing program for the nature reserve could serve to demonstrate the viability of such an option for other reserves consistent with protection of conservation values.

8

HUBEI Recommendation 8: The Hubei GEF Wetland Project Office should initiate a workshop on provincial wetland management planning processes and capacity building experiences in conjunction with the Yangtze River Conservation Network.

Rationale: The wetland planning, management and governance experience introduced by the project should be shared with other projects. Further discussion of the issues and results from the demonstration sites, and the implications for management planning in other wetland PAs would help to further develop the planning process. Exchanges with other provinces could assist in raising the profile of these wetlands and help to demonstrate the usefulness of the conservation network in disseminating best practices.

1. Recommendation:

HUBEI Recommendation 1: The Hubei GEF Wetland Project Office should undertake and distribute a 'state of the wetland' report for Honghu Lake that identifies the limnological and ecological status of the lake and assesses the effectiveness and impact of the conservation programme.

Rationale: The ecosystem monitoring programme that has been developed by the project, along with studies undertaken by contractors should be able to usefully present the results of their inventory and monitoring data collection and analyses compiled in a report that summarizes the biophysical status of the lake. The Management Plan for Honghu Lake is two years into implementation with project support. Reliable data, drawn from recent limnological and biological surveys, would greatly assist public awareness about the recovering conditions of the lake and the threats which may still exist to the important wetland values of the lake. 

Management Response: [Added: 2018/12/05] [Last Updated: 2020/11/23]

Accepted. Project Office will formulate ‘state of wetland’ report with Honghu Wetland NNR Bureau, to evaluate the limnological and ecological status of the Lake, and effectiveness of the conservation programme.

Key Actions:

2. Recommendation:

HUBEI Recommendation 2: The Honghu Drainage Basin Wetland Committee should undertake an independent technical review of the Wetland Action Plan of Sihu Drainage Basin, to ensure the feasibility of hydrological system improvements and to propose an implementation program.

Rationale: The Sihu drainage basin is important because of the six nature reserves within its boundaries, including Honghu Lake, and because it now has the first basin management committee in Hubei Province. This is intended as a model for other basins. There are complex issues and risks associated with the land use and hydrological changes and management interventions. Hydrological modelling of the complete system has not been undertaken. The limnological, hydrological and biological impacts of proposed strategies need to be further reviewed because of the high stakes involved in difficult trade-offs between objectives. In order to ensure feasibility and confidence in the next steps for implementation of the Action Plan, a brief technical review is needed by national or international water management engineers to further define and certify the hydrological scheme for multiple objectives (including flood management) and the subsequent tasks to be undertaken by the basin committee.

Management Response: [Added: 2018/12/05] [Last Updated: 2020/11/23]

Accepted. Honghu Watershed Management Committee has reviewed the Plan multiple times during its implementation. The members of the Committee, such as sectors of Jingzhou City, Honghu City and Jianli County, including water resource sector have all reviewed the Plan, and give suggestions for recommendation. All these have ensured the feasibility of hydrological system improvements of the Plan.

Key Actions:

3. Recommendation:

HUBEI Recommendation 3: The Hubei GEF Wetland Project Office should develop and implement a rigorous monitoring and evaluation plan for the Implementation Program of Wetland Conservation and Restoration System in Hubei.

Rationale: The “Hubei Wetland Conservation and Restoration System Implementation Program” has been formally adopted as reported in the Final Project Report (no document available). The project has developed an impressive set of high level and operational level plans and strategies, including “Nine Action Programs for Great Conservation of Yangtze River, Hubei Section”. Ecological environment protection plan of Yangtze River Economic Belt, Hubei Section, Ecological environment protection plan of Han River Economic Belt - Hubei Section (2014-2025), Regulation of Conservation of Ecological Red Line in Hubei, Opinions to strengthen the fishery ecological civilization by Hubei Fishery Bureau, Fully Implement Lake and River Chiefs System in Hubei Province, and the Overall Program of Rehabilitation of Farmlands, Rivers, Lakes, and Grasslands (2016-2030). A consolidated framework is needed for reliable monitoring and evaluation on progress and results reported to the Consultative Council on these initiatives.

Management Response: [Added: 2018/12/05] [Last Updated: 2020/11/23]

Accepted. Hubei Forestry Department has developed and is implementing the monitoring and evaluation plan of the Program.

Key Actions:

4. Recommendation:

HUBEI Recommendation 4: The Hubei GEF Wetland Project Office should review and clarify roles, responsibilities and protocols for biodiversity and water quality monitoring in the Shishou, and Tian’ezhou protected areas with the aim of enhancing technical cooperation between the Provincial agencies and the local township for a coordinated monitoring framework.

Rationale: The PAs have management issues that overlap and yet three different departments are responsible for these reserves. To improve effectiveness and efficiency in the monitoring functions, and in anticipation of future amalgamation of these reserves, greater collaboration on the technical, information gathering and data collection activities of the adjacent reserves should be encouraged under one coordinated monitoring system. 

Management Response: [Added: 2018/12/05] [Last Updated: 2020/11/23]

Shishou Milu NNR and Tian’ezhou NNR have both formulated programs for biodiversity and water quality monitoring. Project Office will undertake this work to strengthen the coordination between the two NNRs, clarify their roles, responsibilities and protocols, and enhance technical cooperation between the Provincial agencies and the local township for a coordinated monitoring framework.

Key Actions:

5. Recommendation:

HUBEI Recommendation 5: The Hubei GEF Wetland Project Office should establish a process, in conjunction with river/lake chiefs, for an annual socio-economic survey and report on the status of households displaced from the wetland nature reserves, housing and employment conditions, and any remaining resettlement issues (conducted and financed by government).

Rationale: There is no systematic post-resettlement data and only anecdotal information on how the households have adjusted to eviction. The government has made a major investment in removing development from wetlands; monitoring the results would assist resettlement and community involvement programs. A representative sample questionnaire of households should determine the effectiveness of compensation and job re-training programs, and lessons learned.

Management Response: [Added: 2018/12/05] [Last Updated: 2020/11/23]

Committee has already merged with lake chiefs. Regular meeting was held to solve problems of Honghu NNR. Project office will undertake the work.

Key Actions:

6. Recommendation:

HUBEI Recommendation 6: The Hubei GEF Wetland Project Office should prepare a list of Biodiversity Research Priorities (themes and projects) in conjunction with PA management issues as a basis for future collaboration with universities (national and international).

Rationale: Nature reserves provide a means to advance knowledge about biodiversity and conservation/restoration issues and methods. Considerable information has been compiled by the project and the technical institutes should now be in a position to advise on research questions and opportunities to better understand the biodiversity resources and the options and impacts of conservation and management activities. A long-term partnership between research institutes and PAs of the province should be encouraged. The province has over 70 universities and research institutes. The academia in the province and PA staff should actively seek out opportunities for cooperation with or without government intervention so that the research can be bettered channeled to the PA authorities and staff. 

Management Response: [Added: 2018/12/05] [Last Updated: 2020/11/23]

Accepted. Project office will undertake the work.

Key Actions:

7. Recommendation:

HUBEI Recommendation 7: The Hubei GEF Wetland Project Office should prepare a proposal for a bird watching guide service on Honghu Lake through retraining of displaced local fishermen, and wildlife viewing opportunities on the reserve boundaries.

Rationale: Any tourism use on Honghu Lake is controversial but careful consideration could be given to a limited and regulated guiding service that minimizes disturbances in the core zone and yet offers positive opportunities for local residents to become involved in assisting management of the reserve, promoting public education and potentially collecting wildlife observation data under guidance from PA staff. A carefully design wildlife viewing program for the nature reserve could serve to demonstrate the viability of such an option for other reserves consistent with protection of conservation values.

Management Response: [Added: 2018/12/05] [Last Updated: 2020/11/23]

Accepted. Project Office will prepare a training plan for the displaced fishermen.

Key Actions:

8. Recommendation:

HUBEI Recommendation 8: The Hubei GEF Wetland Project Office should initiate a workshop on provincial wetland management planning processes and capacity building experiences in conjunction with the Yangtze River Conservation Network.

Rationale: The wetland planning, management and governance experience introduced by the project should be shared with other projects. Further discussion of the issues and results from the demonstration sites, and the implications for management planning in other wetland PAs would help to further develop the planning process. Exchanges with other provinces could assist in raising the profile of these wetlands and help to demonstrate the usefulness of the conservation network in disseminating best practices.

Management Response: [Added: 2018/12/05] [Last Updated: 2020/11/23]

Accepted. Project Office will actively work with NGOs such as Yangtze River Conservation Network for this work.

Key Actions:

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