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United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

Balancing conservation and development – pay attention to rural and backward areas

China Institute of Water Resources and Hydropower Research (
Academic institution

    Objective: Pay attention to the conflict between the conservation and development of water resources in backward areas, promote the balanced development of river basins, and ensure the fulfillment of the core commitment to “leaving no one behind” in sustainable development.
    Issue: Balancing conservation and development is a key issue for water resources management. Rural areas represented by river source regions are usually characterized by a harsh environment, fragile ecology, underdeveloped transport network, and sparse population, and protect water sources for downstream water security at the expense of lack of economic development. As a result, these regions are economically backward and face problems in conservation and development. Therefore, water and sustainable development in rural and backward areas deserve more attention.
    In view of difficulties such as geographical differences, conflict in water allocation, upstream and downstream conservation, and cross-administrative district management, comprehensive measures must be adopted. The measures include increasing financial investment, establishing mechanisms, making technological innovation and carrying out cooperation among departments, etc., and are used properly in combination.
    Fiscal measures: Regard government investment as the central fund to promote infrastructure construction, enhance the regions’ development capacity, particularly the benefits from resource development, increase ecological compensation for protection of resource environment, and increase multi-channel international assistance.
    Mechanism building: Establish cross-industry and multi-stakeholder coordination mechanism to resolve conflict between funding and policy support for industry departments. Establish a system of ecological compensation for areas concerning sacrifices and benefits for water resources protection, and increase technological guidance and financial support for green development in river source areas and rural areas.
    Technological innovation: Strengthen technological innovation and application, and solve the structural conflicts between conservation and development, such as implementing circular economy model, renewable energy development, efficient water conservation, and reduction of waste water in river source areas.
    Follow-up mechanism: Establish an evaluation system to evaluate the achievements in water resources protection and balanced development in river basins with the participation of upstream and downstream areas, assess the feasibility and efficiency of measures, and provide reference for management results and policy adjustments.

    Expected Impact




    Goal 6

    Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all

    Goal 6


    By 2030, achieve universal and equitable access to safe and affordable drinking water for all


    Proportion of population using safely managed drinking water services


    By 2030, achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations


    Proportion of population using (a) safely managed sanitation services and (b) a hand-washing facility with soap and water


    By 2030, improve water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimizing release of hazardous chemicals and materials, halving the proportion of untreated wastewater and substantially increasing recycling and safe reuse globally


    Proportion of domestic and industrial wastewater flows safely treated


    Proportion of bodies of water with good ambient water quality


    By 2030, substantially increase water-use efficiency across all sectors and ensure sustainable withdrawals and supply of freshwater to address water scarcity and substantially reduce the number of people suffering from water scarcity

    Change in water-use efficiency over time


    Level of water stress: freshwater withdrawal as a proportion of available freshwater resources


    By 2030, implement integrated water resources management at all levels, including through transboundary cooperation as appropriate


    Degree of integrated water resources management 


    Proportion of transboundary basin area with an operational arrangement for water cooperation


    By 2020, protect and restore water-related ecosystems, including mountains, forests, wetlands, rivers, aquifers and lakes

    Change in the extent of water-related ecosystems over time


    By 2030, expand international cooperation and capacity-building support to developing countries in water- and sanitation-related activities and programmes, including water harvesting, desalination, water efficiency, wastewater treatment, recycling and reuse technologies

    Amount of water- and sanitation-related official development assistance that is part of a government-coordinated spending plan


    Support and strengthen the participation of local communities in improving water and sanitation management


    Proportion of local administrative units with established and operational policies and procedures for participation of local communities in water and sanitation management

    Assessment report on the balance between water conservation and development
    Pilot balance between development and conservation in river basins
    Other, please specify
    Incorporate this commitment into international plans and mechanisms such as the UN Water Action Agenda, UNESCO-IHP, UN-Water, and the Flash Flood Program (FFP), providing support and guidance at the UN and international community level.
    Other, please specify
    Lobby and encourage relevant national and regional government decision-makers to incorporate the commitment into national policies and management measures, and provide favorable policy and management support for the fulfilment of the commitment.
    Staff / Technical expertise
    Rely on China’s water-related research institutes such as the China Institute of Water Resources and Hydropower Research, and coordinate and mobilize relevant international scientific research institutions and relevant universities and enterprises.
    Financing (in USD)
    incorporate relevant action operations and plans into major projects and funds of international organizations and state governments, seek financing support from international financial institutions and international aid agencies.
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    Action Network
    water logo
    01 May 2023 (start date)
    31 December 2030 (date of completion)
    China Institute of Water Resources and Hydropower Research
    1. Global
    Other beneficiaries

    Economic and industrial departments in poor rural areas, communities and residents in remote areas such as river source regions, ethnic minorities or indigenous peoples, women and children

    Website/More information
    Contact Information

    Yanwei , Deputy Director of the International Cooperation Division of China Institute of Water Resources and Hydropower Research