Chinese officials and the United Nations Environment Programme hope a $10 million plan to restore lakes and reduce logging and erosion will prevent a repeat of the disastrous 1998 flooding of the Yangtze River. Severe environmental degradation exacerbated the effects of heavy rainfalls that year, causing floods that killed upwards of 3,600 people, cost $31 billion, and destroyed 5.7 million homes along the world’s third-longest river. UNEP says the new plan will restore thousand of lakes and natural drainage systems and return farmland along the Yangtze to natural forests and grasslands, thereby increasing the land’s capacity to retain water. Creatures that stand to benefit include the giant and red pandas, the wild yak, and the Yangtze river dolphin — not to mention the 400 million people who live along the river.

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