|Project Rationale and Linkage to Country/Regional Strategy
The project has a strong rationale both in terms of urban development and environmental improvement. It follows and complements two previous Asian Development Bank (ADB) loans, which have the objective of building the necessary wastewater treatment infrastructure in Wuhan. The project supports the PRC's country partnership strategy (2008-2010): promoting efficient infrastructure, strengthening environmental management, supporting inclusive growth, and balanced development. The project is part of Wuhan's master plan priorities on sanitation, environment improvements, and urban development and will contribute to establishing Wuhan City as a model for sustainable development in the PRC.
The project is the first ADB-assisted project to pursue comprehensive sludge management while fully attending to environmental concerns such as circular economy and climate change mitigation. The policy discussion between the executing agency and the project team introduced a decentralized and integrated approach for the sludge facilities---based on sludge digestion and drying for beneficial reuse through land application---fully complying with ADB policies and recognized by the PRC as the best practice to support the 3Rs policy of reduce, reuse, and recycle. By doing so, the project has also guided and reoriented the long-term original sludge master plan of the city based on centralized treatment and solo incineration, which is controversial in terms of compliance with ADB's climate change agenda.
The project will provide facilities to treat sludge from five of Wuhan's WWTPs and handle about half (or 350 tons/day [t/d]) of Wuhan's total sludge production. Three of these WWTPs were built under the earlier ADB-funded loans. Each of the three proposed sludge treatment plants will be built on site and will take advantage of the urban master plan advocating for an integrated, practical, and sustainable concept of urban environmental development. The project promotes environmentally friendly sludge digestion by (i) capturing and using clean biogas of an existing sludge facility financed by ADB, and (ii) using the steam of an existing thermal power plant to dry sludge at the sludge treatment plant. Both approaches reduce reliance on external energy sources required for the drying process. Subject to proper analysis monitoring and environmental safeguards, treated sludge will be used as soil conditioner, as construction material, and for rehabilitating damaged urban land.
The project will also pioneer the optimization of WWTPs' performance. This task will be carried out for the whole of Wuhan. It will improve the performance of infrastructure financed by two previous ADB projects (Wuhan Wastewater Management Project and Wuhan Wastewater and Stormwater Management Project [WWSMP]) in Wuhan. The core task will be to ensure the steady performance of the WWTPs, to achieve design effluent parameters, as well as improve sludge quality for its beneficial disposal.
The project will address key ecological and social needs to restore the ecological capacity, the natural hydraulic circulation, and water quality in urban surface water systems. It will increase water system resilience and promote integrated surface water management to improve the urban environment and reduce the risk of flooding. The project will unblock the channels connecting the lakes, and support the construction of wetlands to increase water regeneration and flood retention capacities in the Hanyang and Wuchang areas. In parallel, it will promote point source and nonpoint source pollution control, raise community environmental awareness, and conduct institutional strengthening. The creation of healthy and well-managed water systems in Wuhan will allow urban expansion in flood-safe and environmentally clean areas to support the city's sustainable development. The Yangtze flood plain area where Wuhan City is located is significantly vulnerable to climate change. The project will allow the restoration of the retention capacity of lake areas to mitigate climate change impacts and increase the resilience of the city to natural hazards, such as floods and drought, associated with climate change.
The project, which builds on experience of lake rehabilitation in the PRC, will be a model for lake rehabilitation and integrated surface water management in Wuhan and for the entire country. In addition, the project will support the development of a water quality model that will assist in long-term planning, water quality assurance and forecast, promoting water balance and emergency response.
The project will enhance environmental awareness to ensure the sustainability of infrastructure investments and to maximize long-term social benefits. The environmental awareness program will focus on three stakeholders who generate and are affected by point and nonpoint source pollution: (i) small businesses operating adjacent to the lake system, (ii) communities living in the project area, and (iii) schoolchildren in the project area. This program will help ensure that regulatory practices are well understood and that necessary behavior changes regarding nonpoint source pollution are addressed. A capacity building subcomponent will support further tariff reforms and will conduct a willingness-to-pay survey for sludge tariff setting in selected focus group and communities. These initiatives will assist WMG to achieve full cost recovery of both wastewater and sludge management services over the medium term (2018).