China: Better Infrastructure Improves Life in Rural Ningbo

February 23, 2017

Implemented between 2010 and 2016, the World Bank-supported Ningbo New Countryside Development Project has provided wastewater services to 45,500 households in 144 rural villages, and improved water supply, wastewater services and road access for 76,500 residents in Chunhu Town, ensuring a cleaner environment and a better life for the people in Ningbo Municipality, East China.


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. 

" Now wastewater all goes into the treatment system through the pipes. Our life has improved a lot. There are far fewer flies and mosquitos, and no more bad smell. "

Li Xiyi

Villager, Hepoling Village, Ningbo


The Ningbo New Countryside Development Project, the first of its kind in China helped:

  • Provide 45,500 households in 144 rural villages that previously had no access to rural wastewater services with such services, with the total number of beneficiaries in excess of 150,000. As 54 of the 144 villages are near drinking water sources, improved wastewater management has reduced water pollution and public health risks. 
  • Build a new access road between Fenghua City and Chunhu Town that has reduced travel distance by 10 kilometers and travel time by 30 minutes with a traffic volume exceeding 13,000 cars in 2016. 
  • Serve 76,500 residents in Chunhu Town with reliable and high quality water supply, thanks to the construction of water transmission mains from Fenghua to Chunhu and renovation and expansion of the Chunhu water distribution network. 
  • The wastewater treatment rate in Chunhu Town go from zero in 2009 to 84% in 2016, thanks to new trunk and collection sewers and a wastewater treatment plant.  

Bank Group Contribution

The World Bank provided an IBRD loan of $50 million to complement the government’s investment of more than $120 million in this project with total financing of more than $170 million. The World Bank also brought its extensive global experience and demonstrated ways to improve the efficiency, cost-effectiveness and sustainability of rural sanitation, basic urban infrastructure and small town management. 


Government at different levels in Ningbo Municipality showed strong commitment and support for the project. A project leading group was set up at the municipal level headed by a vice mayor to provide policy direction and guidance. A full-time and well-staffed project management office was responsible for the daily operation and implementation of the project. 

Moving Forward

The project developed China’s first rural wastewater discharge standards and made Ningbo Municipality the first place to have rural wastewater discharge standards in the country. Based on these standards, Zhejiang Province developed the provincial rural wastewater discharge standards and became the first province with such standards in the country.

The project’s participatory rural wastewater management approach has been replicated by other non-project counties in Ningbo Municipality and then scaled up to the rest of Zhejiang Province.


“Now wastewater all goes into the treatment system through the pipes. Our life has improved a lot. There are far fewer flies and mosquitos, and no more bad smell.” – Li Xiyi, villager, Hepoling Village, Ningbo.

45,500 households
in 144 rural villages have benefited from rural wastewater management.