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China’s eco-cities don’t match the hype

Meixi Lake Eco-city is under construction in Hunan province. (Atkins)

So-called “eco-cities” that rely on renewable energy and minimize waste are being constructed across China. Wade Shepard writes in CityMetric that the hype surrounding these urban utopias as alternatives to existing cities doesn’t match reality.

“They are just too small, too remote, too class-exclusive and expensive,” argues Shepard, author of Ghost Cities of China. They’re also too prone to political favoritism and meddling, he warns. Yet dozens of these cities are being built, with hundreds more on the way.

Shepard sees a cruel irony: forests are destroyed and villagers displaced to make room for new cities marketed as environmentally conscious. He anticipates that most of China’s urbanites will continue to reside in megacities, not “trendy” satellite developments such as Tianfu, Meixihu or Nanhui.

Eco-cities still have an important role as laboratories for urban innovation, the article says. They will serve as testing grounds for new concepts, designs and technologies. Seasonal energy storage, rainwater collection and traffic-free downtowns are among the ideas to be explored. 


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