Supporting Stakeholder Coordination and Structure Modernization for Improved Urban Water and Wastewater Services


In 1999, Chongqing Municipal Government initiated the Chongqing Urban Environment Project with the World Bank’s support in response to the deteriorating urban environment in the context of rapid urbanization and industrialization. In a condensed 10-year period, the Chongqing Municipal Government constructed and upgraded sustainable essential water supply, wastewater and solid waste management systems for the main urban area of the municipality to serve a population of more than six million. Removing the point source wastewater and solid waste pollution generated in the Chongqing urban area significantly mitigated environmental damage to the Yangtze River and downstream at the Three Gorges Dam. Moreover, completing these essential sustainable environmental services has been a crucial enabler of the recent dynamic economic growth of the city, to the benefit of the entire municipal population.

Lessons Learned

  • The sustained competence of principal stakeholder, the Chongqing Municipal Government, was vital to the success of the project.
  • The mid-term adjustment of the project demonstrated clearly the agility of the Chongqing Municipal Government and the World Bank during implementation to adapt the project objectives and design to effectively achieve the project objectives and target an expanded group of beneficiaries.
  • The high quality analytical studies informed and rationalized the decision making process within the Chongqing Municipal Government.
  • It is crucial to use inclusive and participatory approaches to align interests among different stakeholders.
  • Another important lesson for future infrastructure projects in China is the significance of investing in both physical facilities and institutional reform. The practitioners and policy makers usually find interventions in institutions, or software, are more challenging, and their result is variable and largely depends on the persistence of the involved institution as well as its effort in implementing these programs.

Development Challenges

  • The main city of Chongqing had long become the largest source of water pollution in the upper Yangtze River. With only one wastewater treatment facility in operation for the six million urban inhabitants, approximately 93 percent of domestic wastewater was discharged untreated into the Yangtze River and Jialing River every day. The construction of the Three Gorges Dam, beginning in 1997, would exacerbate the existing pollution problems.
  • The deteriorating water environment was an issue of concern for Chongqing’s citizens.  Water pollution also brought threats to human health. In the Jialing River region in 2000, the incidence rates of intestinal infectious diseases such as hepatitis A and dysentery were 50 percent higher than the national average.

Delivery Challenges

  • The need for strong coordination among different stakeholders appeared as a delivery challenge to address throughout the preparation and implementation phases. This is manifested, for instance, in the debate among different agencies within the government on the need to update the drainage master plan for the main city and the highly contested water tariff reform.
  • Another featured delivery challenge appearing throughout the project implementation was the need for improved management structure of the urban environment services.

Key contextual conditions: Chongqing Municipality, previously part of Sichuan Province, was created in 1997 in a government effort to develop China’s western regions and to coordinate the resettlement of residents from the reservoir areas of the Three Gorges Dam. Like three other major Chinese cities (Beijing, Shanghai, and Tianjin), Chongqing is in the first tier of China’s administrative divisions, equal to a provincial level. The Chongqing Municipal Government enjoys the same degree of independence to make decisions as do Provincial Governments, and it reports directly to the Central Government. Chongqing Municipality comprises a main central urban area, Chongqing City or Chongqing proper, containing nine districts, as well as a much larger surrounding rural area containing smaller districts and towns. The Chongqing Urban Environment Project was designed to target Chongqing City and several surrounding districts and towns including Fuling, Wanzhou, Tongliang, Dazu, Changshou, Wulong, Bishan, Beibei and Jiangjin.

Key stakeholders: Chongqing Municipal Government, Price Control Bureau, Municipal Affairs Management Committee, Environmental Sanitation Bureau, Finance Bureau, Chongqing Water Group, Chongqing Water Company, Chongqing Wastewater Treatment Company, small-scale water supply plants, Chongqing Sino-French Water Supply Company, Chongqing Sino-French Tangjiatuo Wastewater Treatment Plant, and consumers and the World Bank.