Faced with ballooning congestion and pollution, China has been testing new technologies for transport and buildings in its eco-cities. Mark Hillsdon reports
In the early 2000s China began to plan a new generation of conurbations, cities that placed a new emphasis on improved public transport, renewable energy, and waste reduction.
Since then several hundred have been designed, often in co-operation with foreign governments. Many, including high-profile Dongtan on the outskirts of Shanghai, never really left the drawing board. Others, however, have found an important role as testing grounds for new technologies, from electric buses to flood protection, as well as being home to hundreds of thousands of people.
“Eco-cities were experiments,” says Peter Head, chief executive of the UK-based Ecological Sequestration Trust. While at built-environment specialists Arup, Head worked on the master plan for Dongtan, a zero-carbon city intended to house 500,000 people, which was abandoned after key officials in the Chinese development company were arrested for graft.
China has a simple ambition, to make better cities than the ones thrown up to merely house people
The eco-cities are also a reaction to rapid urbanization, which saw China’s urban population double to 52% between 1991 and 2012. Today the figure is 57%, and it’s expected to reach 70% by 2030, or some 2 billion people. President Xi Jinping has made creating a new...