|Project Rationale and Linkage to Country/Regional Strategy
The PRC has made remarkable progress in economic development and poverty reduction since 1980, but such progress has not been balanced across different regions. Located in the country's northwestern region, Gansu has lagged behind in the economic development and remains one of the poorest provinces in the PRC. In 2011, the poverty rates in Gansu province were 9.4% for urban and 20.4% for rural households, significantly higher than the national averages of 3.3% and 8.1%. Development barriers facing Gansu include a harsh natural environment, remote inland location, underdeveloped infrastructure, and lack of investment. Such wide regional disparities prompted the Government of the People's Republic of China to launch the National Strategy for Development of the Western Region, with the aim to promote balanced economic growth and to raise the living standards in the region. The strategy focuses on developing infrastructure, protecting the environment, and strengthening economic cooperation and trade with neighboring provinces and countries.
The project is located in Jiuquan, Gansu province, about 730 kilometers (km) northwest of the provincial capital of Lanzhou. Jiuquan's key industries are renewable energy equipment manufacturing and agricultural product processing. Tourism has increasingly contributed to the city's economic output based on its rich historic and cultural resources and the launching site of the national space program. Historically an oasis on the ancient Silk Road along the Hexi Corridor, Jiuquan has the potential to serve as a vital artery for the relatively less-developed northwestern region of the PRC and play a strategic role in aiding the region's socioeconomic development as envisaged under the National Strategy for Development of the Western Region.
Jiuquan faces various environmental problems and urban development challenges due to its harsh natural environment and inadequate urban infrastructure. Situated between the southern limits of the Gobi desert and the Qilian Mountains, Jiuquan has a continental desert climate with constrained water resources and high evaporation. Sand and dust transported by frequent strong winds from the desert cause atmospheric pollution, a high incidence of respiratory illness, and productivity losses. The water quality in the Beida River is class II for the upstream reach of Jiuquan city, class III through the city area, and class IV downstream, resulting from discharges of untreated wastewater from the city. As a water- scarce city undergoing continuous growth, Jiuquan must stem the gradual contamination of its water resources, which endangers public health and safety and constrains its sustainable development. Jiuquan's increasingly congested urban roads and inadequate infrastructure also limit the city's ability to promote greater links along the Hexi Corridor and enable socioeconomic development in the northwestern region.
An estimated 66% of wastewater is treated in Jiuquan city at an existing wastewater treatment plant (WWTP). Excessive wastewater overflows and discharges into the Beida River. There is an urgent need to expand the wastewater collection and treatment system to serve broader coverage in the existing and expanded urban areas. The project will support the construction of a new WWTP and an associated wastewater collection network to expand the service area, targeting an 88% treatment rate by 2019 and mitigating pollution loads into the Beida River. The project will also provide institutional support for wastewater reuse and sludge treatment and disposal options appropriate to the local conditions.
According to the Jiuquan Urban Master Plan, 2011-2030, Jiuquan city will expand northward and westward, ultimately integrating economically with Jiayuguan city, 20 km to the northwest. The now incomplete and increasingly congested road network and ill-managed transport system are constraints to sustainable urban development. The project will support the construction and rehabilitation of an urban transport network, thereby relieving congestion in the existing road network, improving access to a main employment area, expanding farm-to-market routes for neighboring rural areas, and facilitating economic integration between Jiuquan and Jiayuguan. It will improve urban service delivery by expanding municipal utility services networks along the roads. It will also help improve traffic management and road safety, and introduce a public transport corridor for the main road connecting the planned high-speed railway station to the central urban area and to the expanded urban area to the north.
Jiuquan suffers from frequent winds and sandstorms and is in a state of moderate desertification. The Jiuquan municipal government (JMG), recognizing the constrained physical environment and the importance of its prudent management to the city's sustainable development, has made increasing investments in afforestation and resources reuse for ecological and environmental improvement. In support of these efforts, the project will establish an ecological corridor by planting windbreak tree screens along the banks of the Beida River. This will provide natural windbreaks for the city against sandstorms, enhance public amenities, and improve the living environment and public health of local residents, with additional benefits of carbon sequestration, sand fixation, securing agricultural production, soil conservation, and regulation of micro-climate.
The project will contribute to balanced regional development in the PRC, thereby supporting the PRC's Twelfth Five-Year Plan, 2011-2015. By promoting sustainable and environment-friendly urban development, the project aligns with ADB's country partnership strategy for the PRC. It promotes economic growth that is environmentally sustainable and inclusive, in line with ADB's Strategy 2020. It contributes to Millennium Development Goal 7 by improving sanitation. It conforms with ADB's urban, water, and transport sector strategies, which encourage green, competitive, and inclusive urban development, efficient water use, expanded wastewater management, rehabilitation of degraded forestlands, and sustainable urban transport. It builds on ADB's experience and lessons gained from previous projects in Gansu and other urban projects in the PRC, and from knowledge generated in policy-oriented studies on urban water security, sludge management, and dryland ecosystems, including the (i) need for well-programmed capacity building to accompany physical investments to enhance sustainability; (ii) importance of continued support and commitment to sector reforms such as cost recovery and resources conservation and reuse to improve sector performance and sustainability; and (iii) need for integrated, participatory, and well-coordinated management of the sensitive ecosystem in arid areas.
Special features. The project is designed to boost integrated environmental and social benefits and involve community participation in project design and implementation. It has the following special features:
(i)To assist the government's strategy for resources reuse, it will lend institutional support to wastewater reuse and sludge utilization in a manner befitting the local conditions.
(ii)The design of the urban transport will take into account road safety, nonmotorized transport, and integration of the public transport system with a view to the planned high-speed railway. Road safety campaigns with schools, bus stations, drivers association, and communities will be supported to step up public safety awareness. To reinforce the social benefits of the road network, JMG gave assurances to allot adequate low-income housing in the expanded urban area.
(iii)Windbreak plantation will adopt a multifunctional approach to reduce air pollution and land degradation, improve the city's resilience to climate change impacts, and provide a landscaped area.