In 2010, 55% of China’s population lived in rural areas. Life for rural residents has improved markedly since the beginning of economic reforms in 1978. However, the countryside still lags far behind cities in terms of basic infrastructure such as roads, wastewater services, water supply and sanitation.
In 2005, the Government of China launched a new countryside development program to reduce the increasing disparity between cities and the countryside. The program tried to balance social and economic development, promote modernized agriculture, sustainably increased rural incomes, improved basic infrastructure, kept village administration democratic, and raised living standards.
Ningbo Municipality is a major city in Zhejiang Province on the Southeastern coast of China. Despite rapid economic growth, rural villages in Ningbo still lack wastewater collection and treatment facilities, and contend with poor sanitation. Many of these villages do not have adequate financial resources to improve their wastewater management by themselves. Lack of wastewater treatment facilities not only affects the rural population but can harm drinking water, posing a public health threat to the entire local population.
The Ningbo New Countryside Development Project set out to improve rural wastewater management in selected villages and enhance infrastructure and township management in a small town, in support of the New Countryside Development Program in Ningbo Municipality.
The project applied both international and local best practices in rural sanitation improvement –implementing appropriate and sustainable technology for rural wastewater management, using participatory approaches to expand coverage of rural sanitation, encourage cost-sharing by beneficiaries, and to transfer assets operation and maintenance responsibility to communities; and in basic infrastructure development and management for small towns, to support small town development through sound planning, institutional reforms and basic infrastructure improvements with phased service cost-recovery consistent with affordability and economic growth.
For the rural wastewater component, a participatory approach was adopted. At least 80% of all households in a village had to agree to participate in the rural wastewater program. Villagers selected the technical options through a consultation process. The Village Committee also had to agree to take over ownership and maintenance responsibilities.