April 24 2013

Dashed Dreams of an Eco-City: The Failure of Dongtan Eco-City on Chongming Island, China

What was supposed to have been a perfect model of eco-design has come up rather short as plans for Dongtan, an eco-city on Chongming Island, have since disappeared. Located just 25km from Shanghai, the sustainably designed city was to have been partially completed by 2010, with the majority of the city finished by 2020. Instead, questions of who would fund the project and a corruption scandal have halted construction indefinitely.

Dongtan Eco-City

Planned to have housed 500,000 people by 2050, the city had hopes of being completely carbon neutral and using 100% renewable energy. A sustainable approach to increasing suburbanization, the car-free, carbon-neutral city was designed to produce its own electricity.

Plans for this eco-city were done mainly out of necessity. With millions moving to urban areas like Shanghai every month, Chinese cities will need to develop new urban strategies to accommodate these new residents. Dongtan Eco-City

The future timeline for this project remains uncertain. Although construction has been halted indefinitely, it may still be too early to give up hope entirely. A bridge and tunnel linking the island to Shanghai opened in 2009, making the island more easily accessible from Shanghai, a sign that future development may still be in the works.

Others don’t believe that Dongtan was ever meant to be built and was just another example of greenwashing. There are also questions about whether the city will be as sustainable as it claims. Although Arup, the design firm attached to the project, plans to protect the existing wetlands, the island has an expansive and biodiverse wetlands.

Dongtan is not the only eco-city in the works. Other projects like Mascar City in Abu Dhabi and Tianjin Eco-City outside Beijing, China are being constructed in order to house the growing number of urban residents. Will sustainable eco-cities become the suburbanization of the future? Should cities invest in these projects or focus on improving residential options in existing cities? Many questions remain, not only for Dongtan, but for the future of eco-cites.

Do you think eco-cities built in peri-urban areas could be a potential sustainable solution to urbanization in rapidly developing cities?

Credits: Data and photos linked to source

Sophie Plottel

Sophie Plottel, a former GSP blogger, is a graduate of Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario with a Bachelor of Arts in Geography and a minor concentration in Global Development Studies. A native of Vancouver, Canada, she is interested in the continuing efforts of cities to adapt their policies and development strategies in response to climate change. Currently pursuing a master's of science in planning at the University of Toronto, she is studying the policies of sustainable urban development in emerging cities. After living in Shanghai, China for a year, she has became actively involved in Shanghai’s emerging environmental movement and enjoyed exploring the city's vibrant and diverse streetscape.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, April 24th, 2013 at 9:22 am and is filed under Architecture, Community/Economic Development, Environment, Land Use, Urban Development/Real Estate, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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