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Opening Speech at the 7th Sino-Swiss High-Level Dialogue on Water Management
  2017-01-16 10:22  

Opening Speech at the 7th Sino-Swiss High-Level Dialogue on Water Management


H.E. Mr. CHEN Lei

Minister of Water Resources of the People’s Republic of China

(August 11th, 2016)


Your Excellency Honorable Vice President Leuthard,

Your Excellency Honorable Ambassador Jean-Jacques de Dardel,

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Today, the Ministry of Water Resources of China and the Swiss Federal Department of Environment, Energy, Transport and Communications jointly hold the 7th Sino-Swiss High-Level Dialogue on Water Management, where the water communities of both countries gather in Beijing to conduct in-depth exchanges and discussions on water issues and water challenges of shared concern. This dialogue will inspire collision of ideas on the latest water governance policies and advanced water management experiences in our two countries, and also record another happy gathering of the “Sino-Swiss Water Family”. As such, it will surely promote joint improvement in water management in both China and Switzerland. On behalf of the PRC Ministry of Water Resources, I would like to extend my warmest welcome to Her Excellency Vice President Leuthard, His Excellency Ambassador Jean-Jacques de Dardel and all the participants present at the dialogue!   

Switzerland is one of the earliest Western countries to establish diplomatic relations with New China and also among the first European countries recognizing the full market economy status of China. In recent years, our bilateral relations have enjoyed a sound momentum of development, witnessing closer exchange and cooperation in various fields. In April 2016, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Swiss President Johann Schneider-Ammann jointly decided to build a new innovative strategic partnership between China and Switzerland, proclaiming that Sino-Swiss friendly cooperation has stridden into a new era. Water management constitutes an important part and represents a highlight of this bilateral partnership, whereby the two countries are engaged in increasingly closer cooperation and embrace ever richer cooperative achievements.

First, frequent high-level exchanges and visits: Her Excellency Madam Doris Leuthard visited China in both 2012 and 2013, pushing forward in-depth Sino-Swiss collaboration in water management. I myself also visited Switzerland twice, in 2001 and 2008 respectively. Numerous mutual visits have been undertaken by high-level delegations from our two countries for better sharing of technologies and experiences in the water sector.

Second, continuing consolidation of cooperation mechanisms: In 2009, our two ministries signed a cooperation agreement and established the Sino-Swiss water management group, laying a solid foundation for bilateral water cooperation. Thereafter we have on record 6 successful Sino-Swiss workshops on flood control and disaster reduction, which has given rise to an essential platform facilitating exchanges and dialogues between top-notch experts of both countries.

Third, rich fruits of bilateral collaboration projects: A series of collaboration projects in such areas as flood prevention and disaster reduction, dam safety management, integrated water resources and risk management, and ground water management have helped introduce into China advanced Swiss concepts and technologies in water resources management plus flood prevention and disaster reduction, and trained a group of technical backbones and managerial personnel.

Fourth, ever deepening friendship and mutual trust: The Chinese and Swiss teams engaged in water collaboration are the best embodiment of mutual respect, mutual understanding and mutual trust. They have closely collaborated with each other in bilateral exchange and communication, and supported each other in international water events. No wonder colleagues from both sides cordially refer to them as the “Sino-Swiss Water Family”. In 2012, Mr. Goetz was granted the Chinese Government Friendship Award, the best proof of profound friendship between the water communities of our two countries.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Water is the foundation of life, cradle of civilization and essential to ecology. At the moment, China is at the decisive stage in finishing the building of a well-off society on all fronts. The Chinese government has put forward five major ideas of development - innovation, co-ordination, green, opening up and sharing, and regards water management as a critical component in the implementation of these ideas. As such, safeguarding water security is incorporated into the overall arrangements of the national modernization drive; management of water resources is assigned prominence in the construction of an ecological civilization; and a series of major strategic arrangements are in place for water conservation, water governance, water management and development of water infrastructure. Specifically, China will persist with the following efforts:

First, prioritize water saving and take available water resources into consideration: The most stringent water resources management system, already in practice, gives full play to the constraint of the “Three Red Lines”, namely, control total water use, improve water use efficiency, and restrict water pollution in water function zones. In order to build an all-round water-saving society and enable balance between population, economy, resources and the environment, we have launched the program on dual control of water consumption in both quantity and intensity, the nationwide water saving campaign, and the “Water Efficiency Champions” initiative.

Second, achieve harmony between man and water and green development: In parallel with ongoing vigorous efforts to practice natural restoration and precautionary protection of the ecology in important conservation areas, headwater cultivation areas and river source areas, we are also endeavoring to harness ecologically vulnerable rivers, intensify water and soil conservation for ecological improvement, and develop an eco-friendly water civilization in both urban and rural areas. All these aim at building sponge cities capable of natural storage, natural infiltration and natural purification plus beautiful countryside with smooth rivers, clear water, green banks and pretty landscapes. 

Third, work for better livelihood with a human-centered approach: We have focused our efforts on addressing the most practical water issues that are of utmost immediate concern to the people. In this connection, we address deficiencies in flood prevention and control with greater vigor, such as speeding up the training of small and medium rivers, prevention and control of flash floods, and risk mitigation and consolidation of risky reservoirs and water gates. In the meanwhile, we have initiated projects for upgrading rural drinking water safety, for reinforcing renovation of irrigation areas, for development of highly-efficient water-saving irrigation, and for construction of small farmland water conservancy facilities, so that the development fruits of water conservancy will be shared at a higher level.

Fourth, take all relevant factors into comprehensive consideration for systematic governance: We regard mountains, waters, forests, farmlands and lakes as one life community. Accordingly, we take multiple functions of water as a resource and as a component of the eco-environment into comprehensive consideration and address prominent water issues in a coordinated manner, i.e., basins versus regions, urban versus rural, and eastern versus central and western parts of China. Efforts and resources are pooled to build 172 major hydraulic projects for water saving and water supply, accelerate the construction of a modern water infrastructure network, build water system linkages between rivers, lakes and reservoirs, and thus keep enhancing the carrying capacity of water resources and the water environment.

Fifth, deepen reform and innovate mechanisms: Amongst others, we are reinforcing the duties and responsibilities of basin authorities for integrated management by vigorously promoting the “River Chief System” for rivers and lakes. To put the roles of the government and the market into full play, we increase input from public finance and support from development finance, while encouraging non-government funds to invest in water projects. Meanwhile, efforts are in progress to promote comprehensive reform of water tariff for agriculture, actively nurture the water right trading market, and push forward ownership and management reform of water projects by category, so that water governance systems and water governance capacity will be modernized at a quicker pace.

Sixth, pursue rule-of-law water governance and scientific water management: We keep improving water related laws and regulations and cracking down water related irregularities to ensure a good order of water affairs. Greater efforts will be made in the study of basic water theories, research and development of applied technologies, application of new and high tech, and dissemination of science and technology. In the process of faster ICT development for the water sector, “internet+” modern water management will be promoted to enable the transformation from “digital water” to “smart water”.  

Ladies and Gentlemen,

This year is a year of dire challenges and daunting tests for the Chinese water sector. Due to the impacts of a “super” El Nino, China has been suffering with early beginning of flood season, frequent precipitation, and severe flooding. To name a few, basin-wide catastrophic floods struck the Taihu Lake region; water levels of all trunk streams at the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River exceeded their protective thresholds; numerous tributaries of Hai River and Liao River were severely flooded; and coastal regions have also been caught by frequent and strong typhoons. Thus the flooding and logging disasters this year features with large affected areas in many different areas in both Southern and Northern parts of the territory. The Chinese government, as always, attaches utmost importance to flood control, emergency rescue and disaster relief. Early and careful preparation has been put in place, flood defense accounting system has been carried out throughout different levels, and emergency responses has been launched timely. Water works such as Three Gorges Project and its reservoirs, flood control and waterlogging discharge projects of Lake Taihu as well as Haihe River Basin water projects scientifically regulated, which has enabled ordered flood retention and storage plus peak flow cut and staggered. The fight against such severe flood disasters has scored significant periodical achievements. Although flood disasters are severe, risky regimes of rivers, lakes and reservoirs have been placed under effective control, with all large and medium reservoirs free of dam collapse and all major rivers free from mainstream dyke failure. The death toll is significantly lower than the average level for the same period of any year since 2000. Now, China is at the crucial stage of flood control. “Super” El Nino is still in effect, and La Nina has begun to emerge and spread. Future extreme events feature with high unexpectedness, abnormality and uncertainty. With safeguarding people’s life remaining our paramount task, we will further enhance all flood defense measures, and try all possible means to minimize disaster losses. Meanwhile, the Chinese Government is scientifically formulating post-disaster water related construction, so as to comprehensively promote our capacity for flood control, disaster relief, and typhoon defense.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

To meet water challenges and ensure water security is an important topic of global concern. It is worthwhile for China and Switzerland to learn from each other’s concepts, experiences and technologies in water resources management, flood control and disaster reduction.

Availing myself of this opportunity, I would like to put forward 3 proposals on Sino-Swiss water cooperation.

1. Boost bilateral exchange and dialogue: Relevant efforts may include more intensive information exchange, sharing of the latest water management policies and strategies, and encouraging water research institutes and water enterprises of both countries to carry out reciprocal practical cooperation.

2. Further expand areas of cooperation: Science and technology cooperation, information exchange and personnel training may extend to areas such as water saving, protection of the water environment, restoration of water ecology and impact of climate change on water resources, so that progress in science and technology will support and guide improvement in water governance.

3. Intensify coordination and cooperation: In this regard, we need work hard to enable a full demonstrative example of Sino-Swiss water cooperation for bilateral water cooperation worldwide, actively participate in global water governance, and jointly promote the attainment of water-related goals enshrined in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Finally, may I wish the dialogue a great success, Sino-Swiss water cooperation richer fruits, and the “Sino-Swiss Water Family” everlasting friendship!