Five decades ago, China suffered from severe economic downturn that was manifested through food shortages and increase in the number of citizens below the poverty line. With more stringent economic policies, they were able to overcome these financial hurdles. Presently, China is expecting to have an additional 350 million residents in the next two decades. With this, the country is doing everything to look for eco-friendly solutions that are geared towards sustainable living.
China as a Home of Innovations
China has always been known for several innovations, be it in the field of technology or construction. Urbanization is something that China favors, which is the reason why it is now building the world’s largest eco-city. China hopes to have 200 model counties, 100 model cities, 10,000 model towns and 1,000 model districts by the year 2015. Some model cities, however, have already been mapped out. For instance, Dongtan is being reconstructed because of different problems concerning corruption and other financial matters. China aims to make Dongtan an eco-city, which will be designed to house around 500,000 people.
Tianjin: China’s Model Eco-City
Another one is Tianjin, the biggest, latest, and the most successful eco-city project as of today. This eco-city was created together with the government of Singapore. The Chinese government is hoping that Tianjin would emerge as one of the economic powerhouses along the cities in the Pearl River Delta and Yangtze River regions. Before Tianjin was developed, it was initially considered to be uninhabitable. However, because of the eco-city project, more than 2,000 residents have settled themselves into the district and about 5,000 apartments have already been sold. The development does not stop there. The city is still planning to house 350,000 more residents in the coming years.
Aside from being the most successful eco-city project, Tianjin also stands out because of the attention given by the Chinese government. Furthermore, the city has some of the country’s most strict building energy-efficiency standards. With Tianjin, it is clear that the government is doing their best to go beyond their development plans. They are striving to implement more advanced green building standards.
China’s Struggle to Develop Greener Cities
Perfecting technologies like what China is doing now could actually prove to be cost-effective and useful for other developing cities in the country. This type of experiment may have started slowly but it definitely is proving itself to be successful enough, and China wants other countries to emulate what they have started.
As one drives around the city, he or she can see wind turbines along the avenue lined with streetlights that run with the use of solar power. Although these turbines have been a great help to the city, government officials think that the wind power is not completely connected to the grid. In the year 2009, the World Bank reported that the power and heat supply of the city came from outside the city. This is due to the fact that the renewable energy resources of the place is relatively scarce and is not yet enough to power an entire city.
Just like any other projects, questions have also been raised about the eco-friendly projects of the city. Chinese government officials said that by the year 2020, ninety percent of the movements within the city will be made via public transportation, on foot or with the use of a bicycle. One of the residents of the eco-city have shared that she prefers walking when going to stores or even when going to work. When she leaves the area, she travels by bus instead of trains.
Greener Infrastructure Will be in Place
The apartments in the city also comes with underground parking spaces. Government officials are saying that subsidies for electric cars as well as their charging stations are already being planned. Some are confused as to how to charge the electric cars if ever they would be driving one. According to Beijing’s Natural Resources Defense Council, charging of electric cars have to be very convenient. They should make sure that all the details are right because if something goes wrong along the way, it will be a lot more difficult to make changes later on.
Wider tarmac roads are also designed for cars. This would allow big vehicles such as trucks and buses as well as normal household cars to run along the road without too much hassle. Bicycles and runners on the sidewalks are also given priority by having their own lanes in these same roads. The city’s taller and slimmer buildings are built all around the city in order to increase walk-ability.
Criticisms on the Eco-City
Despite the success of the Tianjin eco-city project, critics are still on the go in pointing out both existing and potential flaws. Critics say that the lack of a human scale in the urban planning of the project would defeat the purpose of changing certain aspects in the city once it is fully built. According to them, the government is not doing much in teaching residents about recycling and energy efficiency. Although there are people assigned to teach the residents certain practices that are helpful in maintaining the city as an eco-friendly one, the number of teachers would not be enough to educate everybody in the area.
There are experts, on the other hand, who think that the partnership the Chinese government has with Singapore and the location of the city itself are the reasons why the city of Tianjin could actually become a disaster in the coming years. There are other experts who remain to be optimistic, saying that Tianjin is just one model city. There are still other cities to look into, so it is quite unfair if the success or failure of the project will be based on one area only. This opinion seems to be supported by some residents.
What the people should understand is that the project is still in its infancy stage. In general, the government is positive that better results will be seen in the next four to five years. Recycling and energy conservation will then be practiced by the residents, which will ultimately lead to a more sustainable living environment.
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