News Details | 22-Sep-2010

NTU Mayors’ Class graduates turn wastewater into re-usable water in village in China

  • This humanitarian project aims to become a model for a sustainable village in China

A team of graduates from Nanyang Technological University’s (NTU) “Mayors’ Class” has completed a water project that treats sewage into re-usable water for irrigation and fish farming in Yuanshan village, Sichuan.

The wastewater recycling project had earlier won the S$500,000 grand prize in the inaugural Lien Challenge, an initiative that encourages innovative environmental solutions for China. It is spearheaded by NTU and Lien Foundation, a privately funded philanthropic organisation.

To mark the completion of the project, a ceremony was held on 21 September 2010 at Yuanshan village graced by the Vice-Governor of Xinjin County Mr Wang Haijun.

Lien Challenge – Encouraging environmental solutions for China
The Lien Challenge was launched in 2008 with a total of S$3 million funding from Lien Foundation. It is integrated into NTU’s Master of Science in Managerial Economics (MME) and Master of Public Administration (MPA) programmes, also known as the “Mayors’ Class” as many high-level officials from China have attended the programmes.

The two postgraduate courses offer a practice-based learning platform for the officials, who come from central and local governments in China, to translate innovative ideas into real-life solutions, and apply what they have learnt beyond NTU and Singapore. 

Students in these programmes “compete” with each other through project proposals on environmental solutions that would help improve the lives of people in China.  The best proposal wins a cash prize which funds the implementation of the project.    

“We conceived the Lien Challenge with the intention of harnessing the political clout and will of NTU’s Mayors’ Class to tackle China’s water challenges,” said Mr Lee Poh Wah, Chief Executive Officer, Lien Foundation. “Government participation is key to the success of any water and sanitation initiative, and this programme has made headway by fostering a cadre of water advocates among senior government officials. The results go to show how a friendly competition amongst Chinese officials in a learning environment can produce innovative solutions and significant impact.”

“After learning the technical know-how from NTU and Singapore, it is important for the students to translate and apply their knowledge into practice in the real world. We are happy to partner Lien Foundation organise Lien Challenge, the first competition of its kind, for our Mayors’ Class students. The competition enables them to identify projects, apply best practices, and benefit the people in China, both socially and economically. The completion of our first winning project marks the success of Lien Challenge as well as the close collaboration between Singapore and China,” said Associate Professor Wu Wei, Director of NTU’s Nanyang Centre for Public Administration, which runs the Mayors’ Class programmes.

Turning wastewater into re-usable water
The winning proposal for the inaugural Lien Challenge is a wastewater treatment project headed by Mr Ma Bo, who graduated from the Mayors’ Class in 2009. He is the Vice Secretary-General of the Sichuan government. Combining various technologies, Mr Ma’s team created an artificially enhanced wetland that treats sewage in Yuanshan village, transforming it into irrigation water for agriculture and fish farming.

Biogas produced in the treatment process is also recovered and used as an energy source for households. The team implemented the water project with help from Lien Aid, an international development NGO under the Lien Foundation-NTU Environmental Endeavour.

Mr Ma’s project is a sustainable solution as it effectively treats the sewage and turns it into re-usable water and its operation and maintenance costs are also lower than the previous technology.

With Yuanshan village being identified as a showcase for China’s rural development policy, the wastewater treatment project has received much support from Xinjin’s local governments. The team hopes that the project will set the design standard for a model village in sustainability and that the local governments will promote this solution to other villages in Sichuan and China.

Next, Mr Ma’s team is planning to have the project implemented in Sanjiang village, an earthquake-affected village upstream of the Min River.

Creating a network of environmental advocates among Chinese officials
Apart from the Yuanshan village project, the other proposal that has been implemented under the inaugural Lien Challenge is the waste pollution control project in Fujian.

Following the success of the inaugural Lien Challenge in 2008, 35 proposals addressing various water and sanitation sustainability issues challenging China today were submitted for the 2009 Challenge.  Projects in Gansu, Jiangsu, Hubei, Chongqing and Guangxi are now being considered for implementation.  

Through further Lien Challenge project collaborations and interaction with top officials from different parts of China, NTU and Lien Foundation hope to create a network of environmental advocates in China who will make positive changes to their local communities.

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Media contacts:

Esther Ang, Manager, Corporate Communications Office
Nanyang Technological University
Tel: +65 6790 6804; Mobile: +65 9113 9654; Email:

Genevieve Kuek, Director
Qeren Communications
Mobile: +65 9763 3110; Email:

About Nanyang Technological University

About Lien Foundation
The Lien Foundation was founded by Dr Lien Ying Chow, an eminent Asian business leader, banker and hotelier. The Foundation pioneers new ground in philanthropy by investing in innovative solutions, convening strategic partnerships and catalysing action on social and environmental challenges. The Foundation seeks to enhance educational opportunities for the disadvantaged and the development of nascent fields of studies; excellence in eldercare; and environmental sustainability in water and sanitation.

For more information, visit

About Lien Aid
Lien Aid is an international development NGO headquartered in Singapore. Its core mission is to build a firm foundation for human development by making safe water and sanitation accessible and affordable to poor communities in Asia. Founded in 2006 by the Lien Foundation and the Nanyang Technological University, Lien Aid’s strength lies in delivering solutions using appropriate technology backed by knowledge transfer. In less than four years, Lien Aid has impacted thousands of lives in Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam through various water treatment, sanitation and community development initiatives.

For more information, visit



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