China is building a completely new, fully green city where cars will not be necessary. Too good to be true or a move towards the future of sustainable urban living?
Along with the masses of suburban highrise development projects aptly dubbed as “car cities” because they are so far away from anything else the residents need personal cars to live there, China is also trying to do the exact opposite: building a city where nobody would need a car. Outside of Chengdu in Sichuan province, a 78 million square foot site has been cleared out for a self-contained, eco-friendly city that will be designed to provide everything its 80,000 residents may need without having to drive.
The plan is to build an urban center which will reduce its residents environmental impact by using greener forms of energy, cutting down on waste, and having a public transportation system that is so good that it makes personal automobiles overtly unnecessary.
Though this project is being dubbed as creating a “car free city,” personal automobiles will actually be allowed. But the intent is to set the city up in a way that people will not need to depend on their cars to get to where they want to go. Half of the city’s roads will be for pedestrians only, and the entire place will be decked out with electric shuttles. I can’t say this in a bad idea in a country that has had many cities turned into traffic derived hellholes and one of the highest rates of car accidents in the world.
This new no-car city has already dubbed its municipal facilities, which will include its sewer treatment and power plants, an “eco-park.” Though this seems very different from any eco-park I’ve ever visited I’m willing to keep an open mind on the matter. It is said that the city will cut energy usage by 48 percent, water by 58 percent, and dish out 89 percent less waste when compared with similar sized developments in China — though no article I’ve read on the matter says exactly how they intend to do so. As far as power goes, the designers have already ruled that Chengdu’s perma-haze would not create an adequate environment for solar energy collection, but wind power will be harnessed.
If any country is poised to lead the “green urbanization movement,” it’s China. This may seem counter-intuitive, as many heinous reports of environmental catastrophes, pollution, and toxic landscapes tend to come out of this country regularly. But this is precisely why China is poised on the verge of change: the people know their environment has been devastated, they know the air they breathe is hazardous, the water they drink is poisonous, and many of those who have the cash are willing to pay for an alternative.
Now whether this “green city” will really have more of an impact than just making their residents feel better about the state of their environment and lend the CCP some international bragging rights is a debate for another article. What matters here is that “green design” is not just something that’s given lip service but is a trend that’s beginning to drive the development plans of many Chinese cities on a major scale. In point, this new green city that is being planned to go up outside of Chengdu is just a more extreme example of the direction that many of this country’s cities are beginning to turn.
But I have to add here that regardless of what will happen it’s impressive to see even a plan for a Chinese city that is designed for people rather than cars. Perhaps the best way to deal with China’s ever-growing traffic problem is to design cities in a way that personal automobiles are rendered unnecessary.
Previous post: Becoming Unstuck To Travel The World