China: Chinese eco-cities

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First eco-cities in China

Faced with the problems caused by the consequences of their strong growth, pollution and strong growth in energy demand, the Chinese authorities seem to have been seduced by their visit, in February 2005, of the Bedzed eco-village. The joint venture Shanghai Industrial Investment Corporation (SIIC) has signed a multi-billion dollar contract with UK engineering consulting firm 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 the 3 / 4 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 of importance since the island of Chongming, made of old marshes, is a nature 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 expertise in sustainable architecture, urban planning and renewable energy management, Arup expects Dongtan to be self-sufficient in energy. By building on wind and solar power generation, making hybrid vehicles the main mode of transportation and 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 said: "Dongtan will mark a turning point in China's frenetic urban growth by taking into account economic, social and environmental principles to reduce impacts on nature, and provide a model for the future development of China and East Asia. It will be a first sustainable post-industrial city of high quality. "

The first homes for 50 000 people are expected to be built by 2010, the year Shanghai will host the World Expo. Dongtan is expected to host 500 000 in 2040. This neighborhood is thought of as a prototype of urban life, with jobs in high technology and high-tech industries, recreational structures, and in every detail such as the accessibility to the banks or the orientation of homes in relation to Sun. Suffice to say that the project is ambitious because it aims at a dual 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 noted by Peter Head in "The Observer": "An industrial revolution, on the pattern experienced by Great Britain 200 years ago, is unsustainable for China and the Chinese have understood. They can see the social-economic problems caused by very high growth rates, and they realize they will have to go beyond them. "

Thus Dongtan district will serve as a basis for future projects. In November 2005, during Chinese President Hu Jintao's visit to British 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 construction sites. have not been defined yet. Clearly, with these eco-cities self-sufficient in energy and food, and whose goal is zero emissions of greenhouse gases in transportation, China seems to have found one way to reconcile economic growth and population growth in a sustainable perspective. For Peter Head: "It's 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. "

Christophe Brunella, Novethic


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