After nearly a millennium of efforts to control floods in the Yangtze River basin with dikes, polders and other hard engineering measures, the Chinese government adopted a radically different approach after the disastrous 1998 floods. A soft path approach was used that saw several thousand square kilometers of floodplains restored to safely hold and slowly release peak floodwaters.
… In this case larger floods can be more safely managed. The environment has benefitted through improved water quality, recovery of flora and fauna, conservation of threatened species and designation of nature reserves. While 2.4 million people were relocated from the most flood-prone lands to adjacent, higher ground, in general their livelihoods and resilience have improved ….
Barriers remain, however, including: the challenge of coordinating between overlapping institutions; ongoing advocacy by public officials for hard, engineering solutions; and the lack of ability to hold local officials accountable for implementing national policies.