China has planned to develop a sustainable 30 square kilometer community with energy-saving technologies that is expected to be ready by 2020. Tianjin Eco-City, a collaborative project between the Chinese and Singaporean government, will be designed by Surbana Urban Planning Group and will serve as a model for future developing “green cities” in China.
The land chosen to be the future Tianjin Eco-city was a dumping ground for toxic waste and picking this location was deliberate, according to Ho Tong Yen, head of Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-city Development and Investment. Ho told BBC: “In the past, so-called ecocities have been built in ecologically important areas or on useful arable land. We wanted to show that it’s possible to clean up a polluted area and make it useful and liveable.”
Tianjin Eco-City, which is expected to house 350,000 residents, will use solar power, wind power, rainwater recycling and wastewater treatment to generate power. Other innovations include sound and motion sensitive lights that turn on only when it hears or feels a person approaching, automatic controls for window blinds that will regulate light and temperature and a pneumatic municipal waste collection system.
In an attempt to reduce the city’s carbon emissions, residents will have an advanced light rail system and China will encourage residents to use public transport–the country has pledged that 90 percent of the traffic within the city will be public transport. This reduction in carbon emissions is a big step for China since, according to data released by the Energy Information Administration in 2011, China emits the most CO2 in the world. Specifically, China emits more CO2 than the US and Canada put together and their emission rates have gone up by 171% since the year 2000.
The city is planned to be divided into seven distinct regions: Lifescape, Eco-Valley, Solarscape, Urbanscape, Windscape, Earthscape and Eco-Corridors. Solarscape will be the administrative and civic center of the city, Urbanscape will be the core of the city that will make use of vertical space, Earthscape will be the suburbs and Windscape will turn a century-old village around a lake into a vague for citizens to relax and recreate. What’s more, the city’s landscape will be filled with parks and green spaces that have reed beds to attract birds and help clean the water.
One of the biggest hurdles of promoting a green lifestyle or products is the cost. With all the innovative technology used, it’s not a far stretch to think of the high costs of living in this new eco-city. But China plans to have one fifth of the housing to be subsidized for low-income workers and their families. Ho explains:
“We want to avoid the idea that this is a haven for rich people or second-homers from Beijing. Being green isn’t a luxury, it’s an affordable necessity. This city should be a practical, replicable, scalable model for elsewhere in China and the world.”
It is, perhaps, this realistic approach to the eco-city that makes the idea seemingly successful. Many countries have planned eco-cities in the past but enforcing too many environmental laws has discouraged people to reside in them. China is keeping low expectations from its citizens and only plans on providing them with green alternatives and options in lieu of enforcing rules.
Photo by Bill Benson