First eco-cities in China
Confronted with the problems caused by the consequences of their high growth, pollution and strong growth in energy demand, the Chinese authorities seem to have been seduced by their visit, in February 2005, to the eco-village Bedzed. The joint venture Shanghai Industrial Investment Corporation (SIIC) has signed a multi-billion dollar contract with the British engineering consultancy Arup to build the world's first eco-city.
By becoming the first eco-city in the world, the future district of Dongtan aims to demonstrate that it is possible to combine dynamism and respect for the environment. With an area that represents 3/4 of Manhattan, located near Shanghai on the island of Chongming, at the estuary of the Yang Tse Kiang river, it could pave the way for sustainable urban development, in China as elsewhere. . This project is important since the island of Chongming, made of ancient marshes, is a natural reserve which shelters an exceptional marine and terrestrial flora and fauna. Many protected species in China live there, making this island a place with very rich biodiversity.
With its skills in sustainable architecture, urban planning and management of renewable energies, the Arup company expects Dongtan to be self-sufficient in energy. By relying on wind and solar energy production, by making hybrid vehicles the main mode of transport and by encouraging farmers to practice organic farming, Dongtan should become a model of the city of tomorrow. In an article in "The Observer", published in January 2006, Peter Head, director of Arup declared: "Dongtan will mark a turning point in the frenzied urban growth of China by taking into account economic, social and environmental principles to reduce impacts on nature, and will provide a model for the future development of China and East Asia. It will be a first high quality sustainable post-industrial city. "
The first homes for 50 people should be built by 000, when Shanghai will host the world fair. Dongtan should accommodate 2010 in 500. This district is thought of as a prototype of urban life, with jobs in high technology and advanced industries, leisure structures, and that in every detail such as accessibility to the banks or the orientation of dwellings in relation to the sun. Suffice to say that the project is ambitious since it aims at a double challenge: not only to be the prototype of a sustainable urban lifestyle but also a dynamic economic space, a magnet for investment funds that will participate in Chinese growth.
China pioneering for cities of the future?
China's growing involvement in sustainable development is above all a necessity. Indeed, as Peter Head pointed out in “The Observer”: “An industrial revolution, on the pattern that Great Britain experienced 200 years ago, is unsustainable for China and the Chinese have understood it. They can see the social and economic problems caused by very high growth rates, and they realize that they will have to overcome them. "
Thus the Dongtan district will serve as the basis for future projects. In November 2005, during the visit of Chinese President Hu Jintao to English Prime Minister Tony Blair, new contracts were signed between the Chinese authorities and the Arup company for the construction of two other future eco-cities including the sites of establishment have not yet been defined. Obviously, with these eco-cities self-sufficient in energy and food, and which aim for zero greenhouse gas emissions in transport, China seems to have found one of the ways to reconcile economic growth and population growth from a sustainable perspective. For Peter Head: “It is not a gadget. This is followed at the highest levels of the Chinese government. They are very involved in the development of this new economic paradigm. "