Published 26 April 2007
International design & professional services firm Ove Arup began explaining in mid-2005 how different the Shanghai project it was entering would be: “We are working as a strategic partner with Shanghai Industrial Investment Corp (SIIC) on the integrated masterplanning for the world’s first sustainable city.
“At three-quarters the size of Manhattan and located on the third-largest island (Chongming) in China at the mouth of the Yangtse river, Dongtan will be developed on 630ha of land as a sustainable city to attract a range of commercial & leisure investments.
“Ecologically sensitive design will be a key element of the masterplan. The site is mostly agricultural land adjacent to a huge wetland of global importance. This will be a significant opportunity to apply our integrated sustainability & urban planning expertise to the benefit of the eco-city.”
Ove Arup said priority projects in the first stage included:
capturing & purifying water
waste management recycling
reducing landfills that damage the environment, and
creating combined heat & power systems, linked to the use of renewables, that will provide the technology to source clean & reliable energy.
One of the developments keys is a high quality road infrastructure connecting Dongtan to the Shanghai mainland. “Dongtan will eventually become a key Changjiang River Delta link between the North Jiangsu Plain and the Shandong Peninsula after construction of the Shanghai-Chongming-Suzhou passageway,” the development corporation said.
Because the island has been made from alluvial sand, it rises to a maximum of only 4.2m and is expanding towards the sea at a rate of 140m/year. The Dongtan wetland was included on China’s list of protected wetland in 1992, and in 1998 the Shanghai government began building a natural protection zone for birds. In 2002, the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands listed Dongtan on its world wetland list, as one of East Asia’s largest protection zones for migratory birds.
But despite worthy intentions, a statement on the Shanghai Chongming Dongtan Investment & Development Co Ltd website about Dongtan sounded like a compromised environment would be a likely outcome: “As Shanghai residents are getting wealthier and as their work pace is being too strenuous, it is certain that Dongtan will be highly valuable for developing tourism, from which it will become a tourist attraction & vocational sight.”
And another from Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors China chairman David Pitcher in early 2006: “This island located in the heart of the Yangtse River delta is home to many numbers of migrating birds, many endangered, yet at the same time provides a huge potential land bank for development of new towns, industrial & residential areas to rehouse overcrowded, impoverished inner-city areas. Development of such a resource is essential, as is sound environmental management of that development.”
The bigger plan involves developing thousands of square kilometres of the mouth of the Yangtse, including a deep-sea harbour for Shanghai – 30km out in the East China Sea.
“To meet the development of the island, the Shanghai government is planning to build the cross-river Shanghai-Chongming expressway, which will involve construction of one of the country’s longest & largest tunnels, according to the city’s urban planning authority. Under the government plan, the expressway, running for 25.5km, will include an 8.95km tunnel connecting Shanghai’s Pudong District with Changxing Island and a 10.29km cable-stayed bridge between Changxing & Chongming islands. The expressway will have 6 lanes, designed for speeds of 100km/hour.”
In Shanghai Expo 2010 news, the development corporation said: “A highlight in the island’s general development plan is that its northern part, close to Jiangsu Province, will be the site of largescale theme parks & stadiums. The northern part of the island would be divided into another 4 areas, with a special function for each.”
The island’s central forest, Chongming Dongping Forest Park, will be expanded and the park turned into Shanghai’s largest public recreational area. The southern area of the island will be for residence, administration & pollution-free industries and the western part, which includes the 200ha Mingzhu Lake (or Bright Pearl Lake), will be built into an international exhibition & convention area.
The China Economic Review cast a more jaundiced eye on the Dongtan project this month, noting the poor environmental state of Shanghai wasn’t about to change anytime soon.
Websites: Arup, Dongtan start date
China Economic Review, the editor’s journal: Dongtan: eco-Potemkin
Wired, Pop-up cities: China builds a bright green metropolis
Attribution: Arup, Chinese official sources, Shanghai Industrial Investment Corp, story written by Bob Dey for this website.