NP: China’s ‘Eco-city’ for a Positive Environmental Future?

By James W. Astrada


With debate over population growth in the near future affecting the planet’s resources, ecosystems, and water quality, China may have a new model that may help humans reduce travel, live in “greener” areas and eliminate the need for any type of fossil fuel based transportation.  One can only hope that the country, that contributes a major source of fossil fuel pollution (i.e. coal) can set the standard for other developing third world countries (India, and the Middle East) to abandon fossil fuel consumption for closer quarters for human communities surrounded by new technology.

In central China outside Chengdu, a location measuring 78 million sq. feet has been set aside for what many are deeming an “unconventional project” to build a city to house around 800,000 human inhabitants.  The major positive outlook was the notion that no cars would be needed for patrons to find their destinations to supermarkets, parks, jobs, or other recreational activities.  Named the “Great City,” the major points for the push of the project was to help lessen the environmental impact on the planet.  The city once built would produce clean energy; reduce waste to a specific location, and public transportation (probably utilizing biodiesel or biofuels) which would eliminate individual cars and reducing carbon emissions.

Adrian Smith and Gordon Gill Architecture were confident in how the Chinese government sees the oncoming problem concerning human population growth in the near future.  They commented with the following statement:

Dongtan Eco city
Dongtan Eco city (Photo credit: Tourist Republic)

“Chinese planning officials [are] beginning to see the effects of automobile-dependent design and are open to better alternatives to urban sprawl.  It has been called the “Car-Free City,” a moniker that is not entirely accurate. The architecture firm notes that the vision is for a city where “cars will be essentially unnecessary, but allowed.”

Although the goal is to essentially reduce cars in these areas, it seems that they are not necessary however still encouraged.  It would be understandable to auto manufacturers that a complete self-sustaining city without the need for automobiles would be contradictory to their main goals for profit; especially in an area such as China where more and more people are adapting to urban lifestyles (and the need for a car).

The other half of the plan can still be seen as an improvement over the controversial fossil fuel reduction initiative.  Ideas include half of the road space reserved for non-motorized traffic, the use of electric shuttles intended for people who cannot/don’t want to walk, and all homes will be within a two-minute walk of a public park.  An “eco-park” will treat wastewater and solid waste which will then be used to generate power. Land outside the city will be reserved for farming or other services deemed by the Chinese government.   With goals like these, wildlife habitats would have the assumption of being protected. Buildings have been designed on such a way to maximize the use of wind power.  According to Smith and Gill, Chengdu’s “hazy climate” is not favorable to solar power.  The major argument for the elimination of solar power for these regions works in conjunction with the major fossil fuel emissions and anthropocentric climate alterations in the short period of China’s ‘contemporary’ industrial revolution.

Smith and Gill are extremely confident that their plans for this ‘eco-city’ would bring advantageous societal benefits as well include an increase in medical care, education, affordable housing, and their idea of a “clustered and thriving civic lifestyle” for Chinese citizens.  If this plan goes through than the ideal place where climate change and social inequity, effectiveness of renewable power, transportation, and recycling systems all come together in one setting.

Most skeptics praise the idea of helping reduce environmental strain on the planet, however doubt that this eco-city will stand the passage of time.  Anyone familiar with how renewable energy works knows that there is still problems connecting solar and wind energy to the grid for maximum output.  There is no doubt that these eco-cities will need some dependency on fossil fuel energy (oil, coal, and natural gas) and China doesn’t seem likely to eliminate the need for coal when they have over 200 years of reserves that can sustain their growing population.  The grand plan seems doable; however the tiny details need to be worked on before the project goes underway.

The idea to enclose humans within protected walls to protect wildlife from our insatiable thirst for violence and cruelty is at best noble and ideal.  Eco-cities once popular may indeed help control our population by protecting what little habitats and ecosystems are left due to anthropogenic activities; however the energy issue still needs attention.  One would also need to build pathways that would link these cities to each other to prevent human contamination to the remaining free lands that are not encased into these eco-cities.  Perhaps this plan may help preserve the last ecosystems and force humans to station themselves in certain areas of the globe (not all of them) to allow dwindling fish stocks and other animals time to replenish before we eliminate them all.  Some will argue that these eco-cities may become “jailed communities” and will have issue with confinement in the guise of environmental concern, while others might agree that we have passed our boundaries and need to be controlled before we kill the only home we have: the planet Earth.


Alex Davies. “China Is Building A Huge Eco-City Where No One Will Need To Drive.” Business Insider (November 2012).

Malcolm Moore. “Chinese move to their eco-city of the future.” The Telegraph U.K. (March 2012).

Yuka Yoneda. “Tianjin Eco City is a Futuristic Green Landscape for 350,000 Residents.” (January 2011).

Calum MacLeod. “China envisions environmentally friendly ‘eco-city’.” USA Today (February 2007).

© Copyright 2012. James Astrada.

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