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HEFEI - When Zhang Laiyi first heard of a giant box that could purify her home"s sewage, she didn"t believe it.
"I"d seen wastewater treatment plants on TV before, but I never expected to have one in our village. A long time ago, we actually used to irrigate our land with domestic wastewater," said Zhang, a resident of Yongting Village in east China"s Anhui Province.
"Since we no longer use wastewater for irrigation, it would drain directly into a ditch near our house. It smelled terrible, especially in summer," Zhang added.
With more than 5,000 people in the village, the situation has improved since the first solar-powered sewage treatment facility came into operation in 2017.
Connected by sewer pipes, Zhang"s domestic sewage now flows directly into the box-shaped facility.
"This facility can treat wastewater for around 40 households. The water quality in our village is much better now. We"ve even seen tadpoles and small fish around the facilities outflow pipe," said Chen Houquan, deputy town head.
So far, the town has installed nine sewage treatment facilities, however, Chen said it"s far from enough.
"Residents live in scattered rural areas, our facilities can only cover 30 percent of them," he said.
A sewage treatment plant is scheduled to be built in the town in 2020, and each village will be equipped with one sewage treatment facility, covering all the residents in the town.
The General Office of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee and the General Office of the State Council unveiled a three-year action plan to improve the rural living environment in February.
The plan said that improving the rural living environment is an important task for the country to accomplish its goal of building a moderately prosperous society by 2020.
It has great significance to the well-being of farmers and harmony of rural society, according to the plan, which listed a number of key tasks in rural areas in the following years, including better garbage sorting, upgraded toilets, and improved residential sewage treatment and village management.
In Datangyan Village of east China"s Jiangsu Province, sewage treatment has significantly changed the lives of locals.
"Rain usually spread sewage everywhere in the village before we had sewage facilities. Water quality, as well as the image of the village, were damaged by the smelly wastewater," said 69-year-old villager Chu Baixiang.
"It helps bring back the beauty of our hometown," Chu added.
So far, a sewage treatment network with two sewage treatment devices has been set up in the village. Detailed sewage treatment information including the flow process and daily sewage treatment capacity will be published everyday.
Datangyan Village is under the jurisdiction of Yixing City, which is located in the Taihu Lake Conservation Area.
As home to more than 200,000 households, the treatment facility has made a remarkable impact on the water quality of Taihu Lake, one of the country"s largest freshwater lakes.
Jiangsu Province issued a document in May suggesting the province speed up its construction of sewage treatment facilities, expand the sewage treatment networks and improve rural area management.
China aims to improve its rural living environment by 2020. Villages should be clean and tidy, and residents should have enhanced hygiene and health awareness.