Enhancing rural environmental health and sanitation in Chongqing

The municipality of Chongqing contains a rapidly growing urban area, but it also has a large rural population. In the countryside, infrastructure such as sanitation and the water supply are sporadic, so the Chinese government and the Asian Development Bank initiated the Chongqing Urban-Rural Infrastructure Development Demonstration Project to redress the situation. In addition, central and local government wanted to make the improvements more sustainable by creating greater citizen awareness of water management and its role in the environment.

The challenge

Chongqing is located in the southwest of the People's Republic of China (PRC). In 2015, the city had a population of 8.5 million, while the municipality had 30.1 million inhabitants. "Chongqing is 50% rural with a per capita GDP 20% lower than the national average. Although the city of Chongqing is a rapidly growing urban centre, significant urban-rural disparity is reflected in an income gap of 3.8:1 in 2008. Rural areas are underdeveloped and lack access to adequate clean water, sanitation and all weather roads."[1]

It has long had problems with providing safe drinking water for its rural inhabitants. "Water shortage is a serious challenge in rural Chongqing, affecting health and limiting economic growth, due to poor water infrastructure and surface water contamination. In 2008, approximately 8.45 million rural residents did not have safe, sustainable drinking water supplies. Few communities in the Project Area are connected to a municipal water supply; those that are connected do not receive sufficient water for their needs and/or do not receive adequately treated water, resulting in high incidences of waterborne infections (WBIs)."[2]

In the absence of a public water supply, Chongqing's inhabitants must have their own storage or travel long distances to the available water sources. "With widespread poverty many households cannot afford to build water storage facilities and must depend on daily trips to sources such as unprotected springs. Due to large emigration by men, women are required to manage household and livelihood activities by themselves; this includes collection of water several times per day. The poor quality and insufficient volume of water combined with heavy time burden creates a serious threat to all and particularly women’s health."[3]

The initiative

In response to this challenge, the PRC government, the Chongqing Municipal Government (CMG) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) collaborated on a project "to improve selected roads and water supply infrastructure in eight districts and counties".[4] The cooperation between the ADB and the CMG was central to the initiative: "the CMG has received project preparatory technical assistance (PPTA) from ADB and prepared the Chongqing Urban-Rural Infrastructure Development Demonstration Project".[5]

The project included two pilot sub-projects focusing on improving water infrastructure in rural areas. "The pilots will demonstrate integrated development of water infrastructure by: (i) piloting a programme of awareness on water tariffs including the public consultation processes; and (ii) piloting a sustainable system of peer-to-peer training across counties, targeting women and children on environmental health and sanitation awareness."[6]

These pilots recognised the importance of informing local inhabitants of the issues around providing safe, clean water. "The objective of these two interlinked pilots is to facilitate changes in behaviour and understanding of the linkage between safe water supply, service delivery, sanitation, environmental protection (water quality, water source protection, effluent treatment, etc) and the maintenance of good health."[7]

For central government, the project formed part of a long-term strategy to bring social and economic advancement to rural areas. "The government of the PRC aims to increase economic productivity and narrow the urban–rural income gap through coordinated development of urban and rural areas."[8]

The public impact

Between 2008 and 2011, CNY48.1 billion was invested in efforts to improve the provision of water and sanitation, gas supply, and land development. The results for water and sanitation were significant:

  • "By 2011, 5,864 villages had access to tap water, benefiting 303,000 rural residents.
  • "For sanitation, 1,549 kilometres (km) of sewerage pipeline were added, 74.6 million cubic metres (m3) of domestic wastewater were treated, and the length of flood embankment reached 387 km."[9]

What did and didn't work

All cases in our Public Impact Observatory have been evaluated for performance against the elements of our Public Impact Fundamentals.

Legitimacy

Public Confidence N/A

Our researchers were not able to gather sufficient publicly available information or evidence to rate this case study on this indicator. We welcome information and references on this aspect of the study.

Stakeholder Engagement Strong

The main stakeholders in the Chongqing Urban-Rural Infrastructure Development Demonstration Project were the PRC government, the ADB, and the CMG. The PRC government set the overall strategy; the ADB funded the project. "CMG is the overall executing agency for the Project, and will coordinate all demonstration activities to be included under the Project. The social specialist contracted for supervision of social activities for the project will provide day-to-day supervision of the activities in both counties."[10]

As internal stakeholders, local women and community members also worked with the CMG towards implementing the pilots and formulating measures for the project. "CMG will coordinate with Youyang and Yunyang PMOs and Women’s Federations to fully develop the materials and training modules... Stakeholders include: CMG, Youyang and Yunyang PMOs and Women’s federations, women selected for the peer-to-peer training, villages participating in the roll-out and local government bureaus."[11]

Peer-to-peer training was sponsored by the Starbucks Foundation:"this programme will build off of materials and knowledgeable participants created during the small programme in Yunyang sponsored by the Starbucks Foundation in 2007".[12]

Political Commitment Strong

Government, both at national and local level, has given clear support to the project. For the PRC government, improving rural infastructure is an important aspect of narrowing the gap between urban and rural areas. At the local level, the CMG has made sure that the project was properly designed and operated. "The CMG, the governments of participating districts and counties, and the project implementing units (PIUs) will be responsible for ensuring that the project will be designed, constructed, decommissioned, and operated in accordance with (i) the national and local government environmental, health and safety laws, regulations, procedures, and guidelines; and (ii) ADB‘s Safeguard Policy Statement (2009)."[13]

Policy

Clear Objectives Good

The objectives for improving the water supply and overall sanitation, as stated at the outset of the project, were adhered to, and the pilots were structured according to these objectives. "The impact will be improved living standards and quality of life through more balanced urban–rural development in project districts and counties. The outcome will be improved access to safe drinking water and all-weather roads, and resilience to flood risk in the project districts and counties.[14]

These were clearly measurable:

  • To give more villages and their inhabitants access to tap water (by 2011, 5,864 villages had access to tap water, benefiting 303,000 rural residents).
  • For sanitation, to build more sewer pipes (1,549 km of sewerage pipeline were added); to provide more wastewater treatment (74.6 million cubic meters of domestic wastewater were treated), and to build more flood defences (the length of flood embankment reached 387 km)."[15]

The objectives of the sub-projects were less easily measurable, being to provide greater awareness about water and sanitation as aspects of a more sustainable environment.

Evidence Good

The municipal government had significant awareness of such projects. "CMG has extensive experience with internationally-funded projects, including ADB-funded projects. Some, but not all, of the implementing agencies in the sub-project districts or counties have experience of implementing such projects."[16]

An important aspect of the Chongqing Urban-Rural Infrastructure Development Demonstration Project was to identify the most productive areas for development. "The objectives of the technical assistance (TA) are to: identify the most appropriate municipal infrastructure, urban–rural road linkages, and potable water supplies; expand and strengthen urban–rural links; facilitate economic development; enhance environmental protection and management; strengthen safeguards areas; support local trade and commerce; facilitate employment generation; and raise income levels in the towns of mountainous districts and counties
in Chongqing."[17]

As the purpose of the pilot projects was to sustain and reinforce these environmental improvements, it was important that they should be thoroughly planned, with training being given on effective implementation of the project. "This project seeks to pilot two interrelated and innovative demonstration projects to ensure the sustainability of infrastructure improvements and maximise the social benefits. These include: (i) community training on water tariff reform; and (ii) initiating a peer-to-peer learning process on rural environmental health and sanitation awareness for women and children."[18]

Feasibility Good

The financial feasibility of the Chongqing Urban-Rural Infrastructure Development Demonstration Project was guaranteed by ADB funding.

The technical feasibility was based on a number of feasibility studies, with a clear focus on reporting. One of the aspects of the TA was to "prepare feasibility studies for an investment sector project based on detailed assessment of eight core sub-projects in the northeast and southeast regions of Chongqing [and to] establish criteria for selection and prioritisation of project towns".[19]

Consultants provided training and auditing services to local project employees on the feasibility study reports (FSRs): "the consultants will provide practical training in the field during preparation of sub-projects and audit the six draft final FSRs, excluding raw data, provided these are made available reasonably within the consultant’s contract period".[20]

Action

Management Good

The ADB oversaw the provision of consultancy services on different aspects of the project. There was a well-defined project management structure such that a clear set of bodies and organisations were assigned their particular tasks. "The CMG, the governments of participating districts and counties, and the project implementing units (PIUs) will be responsible for ensuring that the project will be designed, constructed, decommissioned, and operated in accordance with (i) the national and local government environmental, health and safety laws, regulations, procedures, and guidelines; and (ii) ADB‘s Safeguard Policy Statement (2009)." [21]

The pilot projects exemplify at a more detailed level the project management structure, with the CMG being ultimately responsible. "CMG is the overall executing agency for the project, and will coordinate all demonstration activities to be included under the project. The social specialist contracted for supervision of social activities for the project will provide day-to-day supervision of the activities in both counties. CMG will coordinate with Youyang and Yunyang PMOs and Women’s Federations to fully develop the materials and training modules... CMG, with support from Youyang and Yunyang PMOs, will request the involvement of national level experts (from Environmental Protection, Water and Health Bureaus) as required."[22]

Measurement Strong

There were clear metrics for water and sanitation set out in the project's Technical Assistance Report. "The project’s impact will be improved water supply facilities and services... The total additional water supply treated will be 168,650 cubic metres per day, which will require new and reconstructed pipelines totalling 531 km." [23] As stated in Clarity of Objectives above, these were clearly measurable as were access to tap water and flood defences (as measured by the length of flood embankment constructed).

As to the pilot sub-projects, the basic public education on the factors underlying tariff setting could be measured by "the number of water tariff consultations and participants [and the] number of children and women beneficiaries of training".[24] The creation of a "cadre of peer-to-peer trainers and increased awareness of public hygiene, water source protection and sanitation among women and students [could be measured by: [the] number of peer-to-peer leaders trained on water, sanitation, and hygiene education; and [the] reduction in number/incidence of water borne illnesses (WBIs) and sick-days associated with WBIs".[25]

Alignment Strong

The initial collaboration was between the PRC government and the ADB: "during the Country Programming Mission in December 2007, the PRC confirmed its request for assistance from the ADB to finance the proposed Chongqing Urban–Rural Infrastructure Development Demonstration Project".[25]

There was also effective cooperation between these stakeholders - the PRC government and the ADB - and the CMG. The CMG was the pivotal organisation on the project, and was also well-aligned with the local administration at district and county levels. The CMG project administration worked closely with the participants on the pilot sub-projects.