To build on successful cooperation on water governance and extend a fruitful partnership, Christophe Bahuet, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) China country director met recently with Bea Perez, chief sustainability officer of The Coca-Cola Company, and Yao Shenhong, director general of Chinese International Center for Economic and Technical Exchanges (CICETE).

China has been facing increasing challenges from water shortages, pollution and insufficient water resource mobilization, set against a backdrop of mass migration and population growth. To address water governance issues in a systematic way, UNDP formed a public-private partnership (PPP) with CICETE, the Ministry of Water Resources (MWR) and Coca-Cola in 2007 and launched the Water Governance Programme to provide safe drinking water in rural areas, pilot sustainable water usage in agricultural production, and recycle and replenish used water.

"It is great that our projects helped people from urban families as well as rural areas," Perez said. "Coca-Cola has set itself the goal to replenish 100% of the water we use by 2020. With partnerships like this, we have made significant progress. And we know that we can make more progress together and we are looking forward to that."

Yao pointed out the key to the success of the partnership’s work on water governance is that ‘what we are doing is closely in line with China’s national strategy. "With CICETE and MWR’s participation in this project, local governments have been better engaged in the program. Local governments felt they had ownership of the projects, and they were willing to replicate and scale up after completion,’ said Zhang Huaying, vice president of sustainability, Coca-Cola China.

The urban water crisis is a crisis of governance, weak policies and poor management rather than one of scarcity, as United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon remarked on World Water Day. To address water governance issues in China, the Water Governance Programme covered three main rivers in China and piloted sustainable water usages in different areas.

Of the many projects operated within the Water Governance Programme, work on sustainable sugarcane farming in Guangxi has helped increase local water use efficiency in farmland from 25% to 68%, and influenced local government policy as Guangxi will promote this sustainable model to 5 million mu (330,000 ha) of sugarcane farmland by the end of 2020. The demonstration of a flood utilisation and ecosystem management scheme in the Haihe River basin has helped formed policy recommendations, and was highlighted in the No.1 National Document 2014 of the State Council. The programme has also recycled water from Coca-Cola’s bottling plant, and replenished an urban wetland in Zhengzhou, contributing to biodiversity conservation while improving local living conditions.

"Right now is a special development phase in China, and we want to seize the chance to have a big impact," As the business of Coca-Cola is expanding, Perez said that they want to introduce the successful experience in China to other countries and replicate sustainable water governance.

UNDP has been working with Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) in developing the next Country Programme Document (2016-2020) to define UNDP’s work in China, and the PPP modality will play an important role in reaching development goals, especially in South-South Cooperation.

Yao said that "with the development of China, the government wants to shoulder the responsibility to help other developing countries. What we have achieved through this partnership, as well as the experiences that China have gained during its development process, can be disseminated and replicated through South-South Cooperation."