|Project Rationale and Linkage to Country/Regional Strategy
The development of XUAR, one of the poorest and most remote regions in the northwest with a large ethnic minority population of Uygur and other minority ethnic groups accounting for 46% and 15% of the total population, respectively, is one of the PRC's top priorities. XUAR is facing serious challenges regarding urbanization and remains poor in terms of economic growth. Water availability is a critical concern to the fragile ecology of XUAR, which is predominantly a desert territory characterized by strong winds, low rainfall, and a high evaporation rate. Infrastructure improvement and provision of basic urban services are needed to facilitate environmentally sustainable economic growth that is essential to improve urban living conditions.
Recognizing the need for greater national support, the Government of the PRC inaugurated a twinning scheme whereby assistance from other provinces will be used to strengthen the capacity in XUAR and improve local living standards. Nineteen nominated provinces and/or municipalities will provide financial contributions from 2011 to 2020. The domestic support complements Asian Development Bank's (ADB) growing strategic urban development partnership with the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region Government (XUARG) and efforts of other international development partners. ADB is currently involved in three ongoing urban development projects in the region. The proposed project will be the fourth ADB-financed urban development project in XUAR.
The project will help XUAR address a common and major urban development constraint by enhancing water availability through strengthening wastewater reuse and improving water management in two medium-sized cities Kelamayi and Kuitun. The two cities located approximately 350 kilometers (km) and 220 km, respectively, to the northwest of the regional capital, Urumqi are severely water-stressed cities in the XUAR. Both cities suffer from a very harsh climate, with sub-zero temperatures between November and March, and annual precipitation of about 100 millimeters (mm) in Kelamayi and 180 mm in Kuitun. The water management problems created by lack of rainfall are compounded by high evaporation rates averaging over 2,000 mm per annum. The project aims to help promote balanced and environmentally friendly urbanization, improve living conditions in the two cities and play a demonstration role for cities under similar geographic and climatic conditions in the XUAR and elsewhere.
The proposed project aims to adopt an integrated approach to infrastructure development and environmental improvement. Both project cities have prepared integrated economic development plans and the selection of sub-projects has been made in accordance with the priorities identified in those plans, with improved water management being a common objective for most of the proposed investment. Municipal infrastructure investment, particularly focused on improved water resources conservation and management, is considered critical to enabling the sustainable development of the two cities.
The overarching justification for ADB intervention in these two cities is to demonstrate how improvements in water management can facilitate sustainable economic urban development, even in cities with an adjacent desert location, and arid and unfavorable climate for water resource management. The project will address two priority water related issues faced by the cities. These project components feature prominently in the local city development plans. In Kelamayi, the major project theme is to improve wastewater management to facilitate wastewater reuse as a substitute for freshwater in the irrigation of urban green space. Further, there is an urgent need to connect existing arterial roads and smaller roads to ensure optimal development of the new west town in Kelamayi. Inter and intra road network improvement in Kelayami and Kuitun is important given their proximity to Tacheng City, which has one of the largest land ports for trade with the Central Asia Republics. In Kuitun, the main theme is river rehabilitation to enhance flood protection standards, while at the same time creating a much improved urban environment that will promote economic growth and improve the living condition of local residents. During project preparation, the design of the Kuitun City component was adjusted to include environmental sanitation improvements targeting a particularly deprived part of the project area and significantly improving the inclusiveness of the project design. In each city, water management improvements will demonstrate the benefits to be obtained from active nonrevenue water management and optimized water distribution networks. The development strategy of Kelamayi, an oil rich city, and Kuitun focuses among others on their potential role in and contribution to Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation.