Building a Climate-Resilient “Sponge City” in Jiangxi Province, People’s Republic of China
- Project Name: Jiangxi Pingxiang Integrated Rural–Urban Infrastructure Development
- Region/Country: East Asia/People’s Republic of China
- Sector and Themes: Urban Development
- Year: 2015-2022
- Project Leaders: Stefan Rau
Picture a whole city that absorbs, harvests, stores, filters, purifies, and slowly releases rainwater, like a sponge.
Situated in flood-prone Jiangxi province, Pingxiang—one of the poorer cities in the PRC—is hindered by inadequate flood risk management, suboptimal wastewater and solid waste management, and environmental pollution. Within the city boundaries, there is a clear rural–urban divide. If unsustainable urban development were to persist, the social, economic, and environmental divide between urban and rural areas of Pingxiang would worsen. Pingxiang was chosen as one of 12 cities for industry transformation and diversification, and for implementing an innovative approach to rural–urban integration.
ADB collaborated with the Jiangxi provincial and Pingxiang municipal governments on sustainable urban–rural development with a $150 million loan. The project contributed to making Pingxiang a pilot “Sponge City”—a flood-resilient urban and rural territory and community. It designed and implemented best practices in integrated ecological flood risk management and river rehabilitation using a green infrastructure and nature-based solutions approach. It also integrated farmland irrigation. The project supported wastewater collection and treatment in county cities and towns by expanding sewer pipe networks and building state-of-the-art wastewater treatment plants. The project improved connectivity between the city, small towns, and industrial areas with construction of a new 44-kilometer rural–urban road.
Knowledge products and services delivered
The project continues to implement several features and knowledge services. These include capacity building of PRC government officials through workshops and on-the job training, study tours, and stakeholder technical consultation. Training materials on the Pingxiang project’s approach and design have benefited many. The project was publicized through articles in Chinese newspapers and on the ADB website. A book Creating Livable Cities in Asia, includes this project and a description of the sponge city concept.
Impact and results
The project is well on the way to helping Pingxiang establish itself as an important and innovative pilot “Sponge City” covering urban and rural areas. All river rehabilitation works are under construction, and some are already completed. This is expected to benefit about 308,000 farmers and rural and urban residents directly from reduced flood risk.
A total of 96 kilometers of sewer pipelines have been installed. A wastewater treatment plant and associated sewers are under construction, benefiting around 175,000 residents. Road construction and associated safety and public transport features as well as landscape improvements have been completed. The new road financed by the project will benefit about 247,000 residents and positively impact villages, schools, and industrial areas.
Lessons for Replication
Cities can benefit from lessons learned from this project. The integrated approach of managing rivers on a catchment basis and applying ecosystem-based adaptation and nature-based solutions is cost effective, delivers a high-level of flood protection, and delivers additional ecosystem service benefits like water cleansing and filtration, urban air quality improvement, recreational amenities for residents, and land value increase.
Climate-resilient farming and rural–urban flood risk partnerships are among the innovative features that may be replicated elsewhere. Other municipalities can look at the strategic approaches to climate risk assessments and investments in rural or peri-urban subcenters to promote inclusive development. Finally, the project provides insights on engaging local communities on reducing environmental pollution and increasing road safety.