East Asia Blog Series

Leading the Way to Green Development of Small and Medium-Sized Cities

9 Jan 2024
A stormwater detention pond in Lufeng county in the PRC mitigates the risk of flooding and water-related hazards. Photo credit: Chenglong Chu.

Environmentally friendly and climate-resilient solutions help develop green and sustainable small and medium-sized cities in the PRC.

In the past decades, urbanization has been one of the critical drivers of economic development and has lifted millions of populations out of poverty in the People’s Republic China (PRC). However, the rapid expansion of urban areas has brought to the forefront challenges such as inadequate infrastructure, environmental degradation, and substandard living conditions. In response to these pressing issues, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) financed the Yunnan Chuxiong Urban Environment Improvement Project, focusing on urban environment improvement and sustainable development of Chuxiong city, Lufeng county, and Wuding county in Chuxiong Yi autonomous prefecture of Yunnan Province, PRC.
Project Information
Project snapshot
  • Approval date: 21 March, 2014
  • Closing date: 30 June, 2021
  • Total project cost: $410.4 million
  • Executing agency: Chuxiong Yi Autonomous Prefecture Government, Yunnan Province, People’s Republic of China
  • Financing: Asian Development Bank ($150 million) and government fund ($260.4 million)
Chuxiong city, Lufeng county, and Wuding county represent three pivotal locales within the Chuxiong Yi autonomous prefecture, located 165 kilometers (km) west of Kunming, the capital of Yunnan Province. As key centers within the prefecture, the development of Chuxiong, Lufeng, and Wuding holds a significant role in the government’s efforts to enhance socioeconomic connections between Kunming and the surrounding small- and medium-sized cities. The sustainable development of the city/counties is essential for fostering regional connectivity and ensuring inclusive growth across the region.
Yunnan, characterized by its mountainous terrain and landlocked geography, is one of the less-developed provinces in the PRC. Hindered by a low urbanization rate and the limited competitiveness of its second- and third-tier cities, the province grapples with significant constraints that impede its socioeconomic development. 

Many small and medium-sized cities in Yunnan faced challenges due to lack of essential infrastructure and social services, especially in the urban areas of Chuxiong, Lufeng, and Wuding. Frequent flooding, lack of proper urban roads, substandard sanitation facilities, and inadequate solid waste management have all contributed to the deterioration of urban environment and living standards. The rapid growth of the urban population, coupled with the sharp increase in private vehicles, has significantly escalated pollution levels. This has caused a serious decline in both environmental quality and overall living conditions in these city/counties.

The Yunnan Chuxiong Urban Environment Improvement Project was designed to address the complex urban development challenges in Chuxiong, Lufeng, and Wuding through a holistic approach. With a clear vision of fostering sustainable, ecologically friendly communities, the project prioritized the implementation of environmentally friendly and climate-resilient solutions. These efforts required a comprehensive range of initiatives aimed at promoting the development of green cities and ensuring long-term environmental sustainability across all facets of urban life. 

The key components of the project included (i) developing urban spatial strategy, (ii) promoting low-carbon transport solutions, (iii) establishing green and resilient infrastructure, (iv) enhancing sustainable solid waste management practices, (v) integrating extensive city greening initiatives, (vi) implementing intelligent systems, and (vii) mobilizing private sector financing. By integrating these critical aspects of urban development, the project aimed to lay the foundation for a more sustainable, resilient, and environmentally friendly urban landscape across the city/counties.

During project processing, the project team collaborated closely with the Chuxiong, Lufeng, and Wuding municipal governments to craft tailored spatial frameworks attuned to each locale’s unique conditions. This meticulous planning considered diverse factors, including land use, transportation needs, urban population growth, demographics, economic structures, ethnic cultures, and region-specific hydrological dynamics. 

In Wuding, the project extended urban areas by 2.3 km2, seamlessly integrating new zones into the existing urban landscape. Concentrated on the city’s northern side, this expansion saw the creation of urban arterial roads, enhancing connectivity and accessibility. The newly developed area focused on educational institutions, commercial/residential buildings, and recreational facilities. This has elevated the urban fabric and fostered a sustainable and vibrant living environment for local residents.

To slash carbon footprints and champion eco-friendly transit, the project rolled out 110 electric buses in Chuxiong, 60 in Lufeng, and 40 in Wuding. A network of 41.8-km non-motorized traffic lanes in these areas encourages sustainable transportation modes like walking and cycling. The project also emphasized street rehabilitation that covered roads, water supply, lighting, and traffic engineering. Greenbelt initiatives underscored the commitment to ecological development, while sidewalk and pedestrian pathway renovations boosted safety and accessibility. These combined efforts not only improved the urban landscape but also created a more pedestrian-friendly environment for local communities.

The project prioritized resilient and environmentally sustainable urban infrastructure to bolster resilience against natural disasters and cultivate ecologically robust cityscapes. This involved constructing a 6.2-km dike and slope protection in Chuxiong, 12.2 km in Lufeng, and 5.2 km in Wuding. Advanced flood early warning and monitoring systems were installed along the Longchuan River, West and East River, and Wulong River. 

Strategic stormwater detention ponds, with capacities of 67,135 cubic meters (m3) in Lufeng and 3,252 m3 in Wuding, were established to guide water flow and manage stormwater effectively, mitigating the risk of flooding and water-related hazards in urban areas. In addition, the project enhanced wastewater management infrastructure through the installation of an extensive network of water supply, sewage, and stormwater pipelines.

The project executed a comprehensive solid waste management strategy, introducing essential measures in Chuxiong, Lufeng, and Wuding. For example, Chuxiong received four solid waste transportation vehicles, 2,500 trash bins, and 10 street cleaning vehicles. Wuding benefited from a newly established solid waste transfer station.

Enhancing the green spaces within the urban areas involved rehabilitation of urban landscapes, development of greenbelts, and implementation of irrigation systems to support the growth of vegetation. By increasing 87 hectares (ha) of green spaces in the project locales, the project aimed to improve air quality, mitigate the urban heat island effect, and promote biodiversity, contributing to a more sustainable and ecologically balanced urban environment.

The project embraced cutting-edge technology to optimize transportation efficiency and elevate urban management. Advanced intelligent transportation systems, including traffic light control systems, traffic guide systems, LED traffic guide screens, and video surveillance systems, were installed. The project also introduced intelligent monitoring and capturing systems, along with measures for capturing illegal parking, enhancing traffic regulation enforcement, and ensuring smooth traffic flow in urban areas.

Private sector involvement played a crucial role in the implementation and maintenance of the project. Through a strategic partnership with a private company, the project received substantial support of CNY1.035 billion (around $145.83 million) as counterpart funds for project implementation. This collaboration was formalized through a service contract signed between the city/county governments and the company, outlining a 12-year commitment to the operation and maintenance of the urban facilities. In return for their services over the next 12 years, the governments agreed to provide a fee to the company. This collaborative model not only ensured the timely provision of counterpart funds for project execution but also guaranteed the delivery of high-quality services to the residents of the city and counties.

The project yielded substantial results, advancing the competitiveness, sustainability, and inclusiveness of small and medium-sized city development in Chuxiong, Lufeng, and Wuding.

Reduced flood risk

Implemented flood management measures, such as river rehabilitation and advanced flood early warning systems, have significantly reduced the flood risk in the project area. The risk of flooding has been decreased from once in 5 years to once in 20 or 50 years. Notably, the size of flood risk areas was reduced by 410 ha in Chuxiong, 490 ha in Lufeng, and 230 ha in Wuding.

Improved traffic conditions

Enhanced urban transportation infrastructure alleviated traffic congestion and promoted smoother traffic flows in the targeted city/counties. The introduction of an environmentally friendly transportation system, including the roll out of electric buses, led to a substantial reduction in carbon emissions estimated at approximately 12,256 tons of carbon dioxide per year.

Increased green space

Green areas expanded. The percentage of total land dedicated to public green space grew from 31% to 35% in Chuxiong, from 23% to 34% in Lufeng, and from 21% to 34% in Wuding. The development of approximately 87 ha of green areas offered valuable recreational spaces for the community.

Environmental improvement

The coverage of municipal solid waste service areas increased. Municipal solid waste service areas expanded from 22 km2 to 41 km2 in Chuxiong, from 8 km2 to 10 km2 in Lufeng, and from 4 km2 to 8 km2 in Wuding, effectively bolstering waste management capabilities and promoting a cleaner urban environment. 

Environmental pollutants were substantially reduced by 792.6 tons, including chemical oxygen demand, total phosphorus, total nitrogen, and ammonia nitrogen. This marked a significant stride in reducing the ecological footprint and creating a cleaner and healthier living environment for residents.

Enhanced urban living conditions

Multifaceted interventions and holistic urban development strategies resulted in a remarkable enhancement in the overall quality of urban life. Satisfaction levels among residents notably increased from 67% to 93% in Chuxiong, from 24% to 97% in Lufeng, and from 20% to 98% in Wuding. 

The project’s target regions further achieved milestones and received recognition that reflected the socioeconomic and environmental progress achieved through the project’s initiatives. Chuxiong was designated as one of the PRC’s national civilized cities in 2020. Lufeng was elevated from county to city-level status in the government hierarchy in 2021. Wuding was removed from the list of national poverty counties in 2020.

The importance of customizing spatial development plans to address the specific needs and challenges of individual cities and counties cannot be overstated. Tailoring development initiatives to align with the unique local context and requirements ensures that the solutions are practical and effective in addressing local development issues. 

Integrated solutions are crucial for promoting green and sustainable development in urban areas. To achieve holistic and long-term success, initiatives must consider multiple aspects, including infrastructure, transportation, waste management, and environmental conservation. Effective implementation arrangements play a pivotal role in the successful execution of multi-sector projects, ensuring their long-term impact and sustainability. Strong coordination between various stakeholders, efficient resource allocation, and robust monitoring mechanisms are critical for the seamless implementation and successful outcomes of complex development projects.

Chenglong Chu

Chenglong Chu

Senior Portfolio Management Officer, East Asia Department, Asian Development Bank

This blog is reproduced from Development Asia

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