On June 21 the World Bank approved two projects totaling $280 million for China. The Poor Rural Communities Development Project will improve livelihoods security and achieve sustained participation of the poorest rural people in eighteen counties in Sichuan and Yunnan provinces and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, while the Chongqing Small Cities Infrastructure Improvement Project will support emerging small cities and towns in Chongqing Municipality to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of infrastructure service delivery.
Chongqing Small Cities Infrastructure Improvement Project
Located in western China, Chongqing Municipality is experiencing rapid economic growth and urbanization, spurred in part by the favorable policies of the Central Government's "Go-West" Program. However, the Municipality's overall development status lags well behind more prosperous regions in many respects. A relative lack of basic infrastructure especially outside of the main urban areas is a significant development bottleneck, discouraging private investment, contributing to poor environmental conditions, and limiting opportunities to promote growth.
Infrastructure deficiencies generally found in the smaller cities and towns are: (i) poor quality and intermittent supplies of drinking water due to inadequate water resources and mountainous topography, which hinder the development of reliable urban water supply systems; (ii) inadequate transportation networks, and structurally incomplete road connections between urban centers and new expressways; (iii) low resistance to flooding and other natural disasters, as many cities are built along rivers, on steep valleys or adjacent to flood plains, resulting in insufficient land for urban expansion; and (iv) unsatisfactory sanitation conditions and insufficient drainage and wastewater treatment.
The US$180 million loan will be used to help the Chongqing Municipal Government to address these infrastructure deficiencies. The project has five broad components: (i) improving water supply by enhancing water treatment and expanding network to cover more areas and small towns; (ii) providing flood protection embankments; (iii) constructing and improving roads; (iv) improving environmental sanitation facilities including public toilets in the main city; and (v) providing institutional strengthening and technical assistance to help improve quality of design and implementation, and strengthen the finances and operations of involved agencies and local governments.
The Project is built on the successful cooperation between the World Bank and Chongqing Municipality in the past years. Previous Bank-supported projects include the Chongqing Urban Environment Project (CUEP) which is contributing to reducing serious wastewater and solid waste management problems in the Municipality.
"The World Bank is pleased to be a partner with Chongqing Municipality in accelerating economic development and improving living conditions for less-well-off residents in the lagging regions of the municipality" said Mr. Tom Zearley, World Bank Task Manager for the Chongqing Small Cities Infrastructure Development Project. "This project has several innovative features including the adoption of a regional water supply approach to address the needs of a number of small towns in water-scarce areas. It is expected to serve as a model for small town infrastructure development in other parts of the country as well."
The Project has also benefited from support by the Government of France, which financed experts to help prepare the project.
Poor Rural Communities Development Project
Although China's achievements in poverty reduction are widely recognized, the decline in poverty has been uneven over time, across locality, and between social groups. The rural poor are heavily concentrated in natural resources deficient mountainous areas of the central and western provinces.
Overcoming rural poverty remains one of the government's top priorities. In its Rural Poverty Alleviation and Development Program: 2001-2010, the government has introduced a number of new initiatives including greater reliance on the participatory approach and an increased role for civil society organizations, better targeting, more effective assistance for ethnic minority groups and people with disabilities, improving access to basic education and health, improving productivity of mountain agriculture and rural infrastructure.
The project, comprising seven components, will support government's efforts in all these initiatives. Some 1,063 rural villages in remote mountainous areas in the three project provinces will benefit from agricultural support through activities aimed to improve and diversify productive activities, develop farmer-to-farmer services and provide training and technical support. Basic infrastructure will be constructed and improved in the these villages including access roads, potable water supplies for human and livestock, small water conservancy works, rural electrification and communications networks, and household energy and sanitation facilities. Assistance will be provided to improve access to basic education including adult literacy education, and to basic health services with specific objectives of reducing maternal and infant mortality and some key infectious diseases in the project areas. The project will also help strengthen the grassroots capacity in managing community development activities by training poor farmers and community leaders in various basic skills and participatory approach methodologies, so as to ensure project implementation effectiveness and sustainability. Building on the successful experience of the past Bank-supported poverty reduction projects, the project includes an explicit component to support project management and monitoring and evaluation (M&E). Finally, as people with disabilities are often the poorest of the poor in China (and elsewhere), the project has a special activity in Yuexi County in Sichuan to assist poor people with disabilities through community based rehabilitation and other measures.
"This is a very exciting poverty reduction project with outreach to the poorest and most disadvantaged ethnic minority groups in China. Through the participatory approach, the Wa people in southwestern Yunnan, the Yi people in the Liangshan region in southern Sichuan, the Maonan people in north-central Guangxi, and other ethnic minority groups will be empowered to design, implement, and evaluate their own project," said Alan Piazza, World Bank Task Manager for the Poor Rural Communities Project. "We are very grateful to the Chinese government for this opportunity to assist with China's tremendously successful poverty reduction program."
The World Bank loan of US$100 million will be blended with a $32.45 million grant by the United Kingdom's Department for International Development (DFID) to reduce the effective interest rate on the Bank's 20-year loan. The Bank-DFID partnership has been crucial to keeping the project closely targeted to assisting the poorest villages and households and the most remote and disadvantaged ethnic minority groups, helping design a multi-sectoral package of assistance activities to meet the needs of the beneficiaries, upgrading the participatory process, and supporting the people with disabilities and community capacity building.
"In China, DFID is focused on supporting the Government of China's efforts to achieve three key off-track MDGs in basic education, health, and water & sanitation," said Mr. Holger Grundel, DFID lead adviser for PRCDP.
"PRCDP will include investments in all three areas, focusing on some of China's poorest and most remote communities. Through close collaboration with relevant agencies at all levels we will aim to ensure that the innovative approaches to poverty reduction tested in the three project provinces are fed into the government of China's own poverty alleviation programs."
(China.org.cn June 22, 2005)