Sunday, October 15, 2006

Dongtan Eco-city

"the aim at Dongtan is to achieve an “ecological footprint” of two or less, meaning that two hectares of land would on average accommodate the consumption and waste of each person." From the economist technology quarterly last week.

I just read this article. I've heard about the 'Eco-city' before. It's interesting to get more information.

As ever I think there are several points to consider:

1. You can't consider on city in isolation and purport it's environmental credentials. The world is a system - there are so many equilibria that the positive effects of the city may be equalled or exceeded by some negative effect that while not contained in this city will nevertheless exist.

2. Should China be investing capital in white elephants (or is it pink elephants...whichever!?) or alleviating poverty and reducing the income gaps?

3. Sure it would be better to start simple and try to cut emissions in Beijing and Shanghai? Improve transport. Improve planning regulations and enforcement of them to keep construction under control.

4. Dongtan seems like a short term show piece. It's function to me seems to be about showcasing technologies but does not fit the social/financial sustainability measures that a truly sustainable city would have.

I have been thinking about this and I really don't think that China has such a huge responsibility to the environment as we do in Europe and N. America. In countries where wealth levels are so high, we should be putting huge amounts of resources behind making out entire societies sustainable (not, incidentally at the expense of other countries as can currently be the case). China's responsibility is to develop and increase wealth levels among it's entire population and ensure development is even and educated.

With the news that the number of $ billionaires has doubled in a year (from seven to fourteen), I hardly think that China is developing evenly. The country could do with getting this right and implementing more simple environmental measures (planning and emissions controls) before building eco-cities.


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