China’s eco-cities..cute but thats all..
It takes less than an hour on the new high-speed train line to travel the 150 kilometres (93 miles) southeast from Beijing to Tanggu, the dirty coastal port town of nearby Tianjin – the world’s fifth biggest port. Here, you can see signs of the past and present: fine colonial architecture built by European settlers a century ago nestle among the gleaming modern high-rises. But for a glimpse of the future, I am driving a few minutes up the coast from Tanggu to see a city so new that most of it is still being built.
Few things can be certain about the future, as philosophers wiser than I have pointed out, but one trend that is likely to continue is urbanisation. The Anthropocene will be populated by city dwellers, in contrast to the rural demography of the past millennia, and this has profound implications for human society.
Nowhere will this be felt more keenly than in China, home to more than 1.3 billion people. Urbanisation has been one of the most important factors in China’s phenomenal economic growth and rapid industrialisation over the past three decades, providing essential labour and new consumers. More than half the population now lives in cities, which at 690 million is double the entire US population. In 1980, less than 20% of the Chinese population lived in cities. By 2030, this number is predicted to rise to 75%.
This rapid rise in urbanisation brings with it tremendous challenges – people need housing, infrastructure, water, food and jobs, as well as rising pollution and social inequality issues. In a typically top-down style, the Chinese government is tackling all of these at once: the biggest polluters have been moved out of the biggest cities (inland into rural areas or other cities), slum populations (here, called “urban villages”)have dropped from 37% to 28% since 2000, and China is in the midst of a building frenzy.
Visit any city in the country – there are over 650 of them – and you will soon be negotiating a route around a noisy, dusty construction site, beneath towering cranes. Much of this construction is taking place in existing cities, converting low-rise to high-rise to pack more people into the unlimited vertical space. But in the place that I am visiting, planners have started from scratch.
China, like several other countries, is exploring the creation of sustainable urban areas, or “ecocities” as they are known. Around the world, ecocities are beginning to emerge from the drawing board, fromMasdar City in Abu Dhabi to PlanIT Valley in Portugal. Aimed at being the world’s largest of its type, Tianjin Eco-city is a collaborative project between the Chinese and Singaporean government that will house 350,000 people in a low-carbon, green environment around half the size of Manhattan by 2020. All going well, the team hope its model for building a sustainable city will provide the blueprint for future urbanization efforts in China, and other countries.
tokenism by china..to appear to be doing the “right thing”..but they will not do anything that cuts back their growth or power..so forget about a binding agreement to cut co2..they wont play that game..and i applaud that..