Officially sustainability is high on China´s political agenda. But mountain leveling and other unsustainable practices to facilitate building of new cities for the country´s new urbanites borders to craziness, writes urbanization expert Sara Hsu in the Diplomat.
China’s ambitious urbanization plan can be positive for the nation’s economic development, but the planning process must consider environmental compatibility. To date, evidence has shown that this is a difficult task for China. To think that, even when attempting to be eco-friendly, with the construction of cities just for that purpose, local governments have ended up destroying protected places, makes one wary of just how well future endeavors will be carried out, especially when they are done rapidly…
First, the eyebrow raiser: mountain leveling in Lanzhou. China is right now leveling 700 mountains in Lanzhou to expand cities, and digging out artificial lakes to make the area more attractive to new residents. Mountain leveling and landscape changing has also occurred in Chongqing, Shiyan, Yichang and Yan’an. New land is created to bring in additional revenues to the local government. However, this process has a huge impact on the environment, and has led to dust storms, air and water pollution, erosion, and landslides. In Shiyan, for example, flattening mountains has led to landslides and flooding, and water diversion from rivers into canals has resulted in significant soil erosion. Environmental assessments for these projects have not been carried out, and the construction of these new living areas has already resulted in extensive air pollution due to increased air particulates, especially since local governments have not followed environmental regulations while building up these localities.
Second, the eco cities, an idea that was born in 2007. China has planned to build 200 eco-cities, with many already in the process of being constructed. Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-city, one hour outside of Tianjin, was opened in 2012 and is expected to be completed by 2020. Hebei’s Caofeidian was started but construction ceased, as investment flagged due to the city’s poor location and unclear development strategy.
Sara Hsu is an expert on both China´s finance and urbanization. For an overview of her latest articles, check our list here.