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Can A Bold New “Eco-City” Clear the Air in China?


Seattle Times
April 1, 2008


Shanghai — To the residents of China’s most crowded and populous city, the air
on nearby Chongming Island has an unfamiliar quality: It’s fresh.About an hour’s
ferry ride from the edge of the city, the island’s farms and fishing villages
are a world apart from the pollution that pervades modern life in China — and
increasingly spills out beyond it.A steady breeze rustles through lush green
marsh grass, the only sound besides the chirping of migrating birds at the mouth
of the Yangtze River. Fields of watermelon and cabbage stretch for miles.”It’s
the last piece of undeveloped land in Shanghai,” said Yan Yang, who grew up in
this city before going to work for Seattle architecture firm Callison. “It’s a
treasure.”

The island may be lodged in the past, but it soon could leapfrog into the
future. It’s here that Shanghai developers plan to build what they say will be
the world’s first sustainable “eco-city” on a plot three-fourths the size of
Manhattan.

Called Dongtan, or East Beach, the project attempts to channel China’s voracious
demand for housing and energy into a radical new model: a city that eventually
supports half a million residents, recycles almost all of its waste, produces
its electricity from wind turbines, solar panels and biofuel, and ferries people
around in hydrogen fuel-cell buses and solar-powered water taxis. Construction
is set to start next year, and city planners hope to complete the first phase by
2010, when visitors flock to Shanghai for the World Expo.

 

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