The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a $200 million loan to improve water resources management and sustainability of agricultural production systems in Xichuan county in Henan province, the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
Xichuan was one of 53 remaining national poverty counties in the PRC in 2020. The county’s capacity for environmental planning and management is weak, which is critical as it is a source of water for the South-to-North Water Diversion Project. The county faces various restrictions on development activities mainly because of concerns over degradation of quality and quantity of water in the Danjiangkou Reservoir, which provides water to 14 large- and medium-sized cities in the northern PRC, including Beijing and Tianjin, benefiting more than 53 million people. Xichuan county is also part of the Han River watershed in the Yangtze River basin, which has been designated a national key ecological function zone by the government.
The project is the first to be approved for the country after a new country partnership strategy (CPS) for the PRC was generally endorsed in March. It is aligned with the CPS with a strong focus on institutional strengthening as it aims to develop the capacity of Xichuan county government on environmental management and knowledge services. It will pilot integrated soil and water conservation measures at watershed scale, complemented by community-based environmental management.
To improve soil and water conservation practices, the project will install smart drip irrigation for fruit orchards with automated soil moisture detection and digital irrigation demand management provisions using mobile phone applications and construct a pilot peripheral rainfall harvest system and sediment traps. There will also be automatization of a fertilizer mixture in drip irrigation systems to reduce fertilizer use and associated run-off. Regular monitoring and evaluation of project performances with utilization of remote sensing technologies and real-time observation stations are incorporated in the project design.
Centralized and distributed wastewater treatment facilities will also be constructed while sewage collection networks will be installed to improve rural water services. A rural solid waste management system will also be established, including construction of a food waste and municipal sludge integrated treatment center that will treat biodegradable wastes and produce biogas to run the center and compost for use as fertilizer.
The project will contribute to holistic development in the region by prioritizing investments in natural capital conservation and restoration and by shifting traditional investments toward valuing of nature and reduction of inequalities in rural areas.
Total project cost is $466.76 million, of which $266.76 million will be financed by the government. The project is expected to be completed in 2026.