The Yangtze is one of the longest rivers in the world. Its basin drains an area that is home to more than 400 million people. It is also vital to industry and agriculture with businesses in the basin accounting for 40 per cent of China's gross domestic product.

Water supply in the Yangtze basin is under pressure. Land reclamation for urban, industrial and agricultural development has disconnected the lakes and floodplains of the central Yangtze region from the river.

This has reduced the flood retention capacity of the areas around the river and made them more susceptible to catastrophic flooding. It also threatens the rich and varied biodiversity around the Yangtze.

Our life is much better. Our annual income is increasing every year

Kehu Deng,

Fisherman, Yanzi Lake, China

With HSBC Climate Partnership funding, WWF has reconnected 50 lakes, covering an area of 4,000 square kilometres, to the main stream of the Yangtze.

WWF also encouraged farmers in the Central Yangtze region to switch to sustainable agriculture and aquaculture techniques that lower the level of agrochemicals used and damage the environment less.

Reconnecting the lakes and modifying farming methods has significantly improved water quality and fish stocks. More than 26 million people are already benefiting from cleaner water, and 56,000 fish farmers have seen their incomes increase. The programme is on target to achieve its objectives of providing cleaner water to 30 million people and increasing incomes of the river basin’s 100,000 farmers by 30 per cent.

As a direct result of the work on the Yangtze, the Chinese Ministry of Water asked WWF to advise on incorporating international best practices into China's next 25-year master plan for sustainable water management. This plan will require the managers of China's seven biggest rivers to ensure proper functioning of the rivers and wetlands, benefiting hundreds of millions of people as well as animal and plant species.

About the HSBC Climate Partnership

The HSBC Climate Partnership was a five-year environmental programme between HSBC, The Climate Group, Earthwatch Institute, the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and WWF. The programme, which ended in December 2011, helped reduce the impact of climate change on people, forests, freshwater and cities and accelerate the adoption of low-carbon policies.