We’re striving to secure or improve the flow of four or more of the world’s great rivers. And we’re helping to put measures in place to return UK rivers to good ecological health.
In Kenya, we’ve helped to restore more than 40km of riverbanks along the Mara, and helped more than 500 farmers adopt water-friendly farming practices. It’s important, as land clearance for agriculture here has led to fertile topsoil being washed off the land, and the sediment is choking the river. The loss of nutrients is also detrimental to growing crops. The Mara river and its wetlands are fundamental to iconic wildlife in Kenya and Tanzania. Thousands of communities also depend on the waters, and agriculture is the backbone of these communities. Through our pilot project, supported by HSBC, we’re calling on businesses further downstream that rely on water from the Mara to help support these farmers. Our film ‘Nancy’s story’, which you can watch here, tells the story about how improving farms is helping to protect the Mara river. It won the Protecting the Environment category at the 2016 TVE Global Sustainability Film Awards.
Water is everyone’s business
Water stewardship is everyone’s business. A growing number of companies understand this, but many others are unaware of their water risks, or aren’t taking action. With that in mind, in 2016 we published a joint report with M&S – The Water Stewardship Journey for Business. It provides practical tips on embedding water stewardship across a business, and shares what we’ve learned during our nine-year partnership on water. In October, we co-hosted a roundtable bringing together food and drink companies to think about mitigating their water risks. The group agreed that whether addressing water scarcity in South Africa or pollution in the Yangtze, a collective approach would offer the strongest results. So we’re now taking action to support collaboration across the sector. Reacting to the appetite for more information about water stewardship, we’ve developed a short animation with support from WaterLIFE. It introduces the concept and encourages businesses to take action.
Improving UK rivers
This year, we’ve worked closely with the government to find ways to prevent too much water being taken from rivers for use in homes and businesses in England and Wales, and reduce pollution entering them. It’s led to proposals of reforms that would ensure the amount of water taken from UK rivers is linked to the availability of water in them. It’s important stuff, because right now fewer than one in five of our rivers are in a healthy condition. Pressures such as pollution and over-abstraction are putting iconic wildlife such as kingfishers and salmon at risk – and creating challenges for communities and businesses that rely on rivers. We’ve been working in partnership through a project called WaterLIFE to improve the health of many rivers. And we’ve worked with Coca-Cola to reduce pollution entering unique chalk streams in East Anglia. We’re encouraging more than 2,000 farmers there to practise environmentally-friendly farming.
A newborn Yangtze finless porpoise has been spotted in one of the oxbow lakes we’ve helped to restore in China. The birth is a good sign of the success of a project we’ve supported to translocate porpoises to the He-wang-miao/Ji-cheng-yuan oxbow reserve. We helped in a second successful translocation of four porpoises to the reserve this year, following a similar move in 2015. A survey of the finless porpoise population in another lake – Tian e zhou – showed that numbers there have increased from 22 to more than 50 in the past five years and that the finless porpoises living there are healthy and reproducing – the survey found nine newborn and seven pregnant porpoises. We’re working with local communities and government, with the support of partners including HSBC, to improve the health of the Yangtze so the river can offer the critically-endangered porpoise a safe home.
The mighty Ganges river is home to a rich diversity of wildlife, but it faces threats from dams, abstraction of water to irrigate crops, and domestic and industrial pollution. It’s all having severe impacts on people and nature. Among the most significant polluters in the Ganges river basin are 400 tanneries in Kanpur, India. With support from the HSBC Water Programme, we’re helping to make the business case for cleaner technology, and supporting individual tanneries to trial it. Through advocacy and green finance, we’re promoting wider adoption of such changes. We’re also working with international companies that buy leather from Kanpur, to enable them to use their supply chain influence to drive change. In 2016, six UK high street companies signed a memorandum of understanding with us to this end. And as well as working with big business, we’ve helped train a community of ‘mitras’ – volunteers dedicated to cleaning up the river. The film above tells their story.
Making a big splash
We’re always looking for ways to raise greater awareness of the challenges facing the planet’s fresh water, by showcasing our water work on a global stage. In 2016, our award-winning sound and image installation at Gatwick airport’s Skybridge brought to life highlights of our 15-year partnership with HSBC. During the year it’s been seen by more than seven million passengers. Also, we and our HSBC water programme partners Earthwatch and WaterAid took an unmissable exhibition of 70 large-scale images by renowned photographer Mustafah Abdulaziz to London’s Southbank and New York’s Brooklyn Bridge Park. Through the exhibition – Water Stories – we were able to reach out to more than 22 million people with engaging messages about how our lives depend on fresh water, and what we’re doing to protect it.
The Pantanal is the world’s largest freshwater wetland. It spans the borders of Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay. But it’s threatened by deforestation, habitat degradation and poorly-planned development. So, with support from the HSBC Water Programme, we’ve been encouraging governments, the private sector and local communities to take action to protect their freshwater springs and rivers and secure the future of this vital wetland. And this year the restoration of 48 freshwater springs began across 12 of the 25 municipalities we targeted. In Brazil’s Mato Grosso state, 25 mayors and 22 institutions have now signed up to the Pantanal Pact, which lists 34 priorities that need to be addressed to conserve the water resources across nearly 750km of rivers.