Eco City Was A Dream

But Not Looking Like It Will Become A Reality

DongtanMarinaMost media sources that lean green covered the exciting emergence and development of China’s first eco-city, Dongtang. Actually, it would have been the world’s first start-from-scratch eco-city. Meant to be car free, renewable energy powered, and full of water recycling features, this city of 50,000 residents was supposed to be a showcase of sustainability. Advocates saw its promise, critics thought this distracted from retrofitting, but China was set to unveil this city in 2010 at the Shanghai Urban Expo.

Mum appears to be the word though. No houses have been built, which means no one lives there. And the expo site no longer features the visit to Dongtang as part of the conference. As reported in the Guardian, the design team from British company Arup, who created the master plan for the city, knows little. What they do know is not particularly good news though: the project office has been shut in Dongtang.

As is clear by the account of Fred Pearce at the Guardian, people who invested something in the project, be it hope, work time, or anything else, are disgruntled. Rightly so. What was meant to be a showcase of urban sustainability is now a model of waste. Wasted resources, time, and money. I assume the urban expo will go on, with another feature filling its void. And eventually what went wrong with the project will be unveiled. But it seems to be symptomatic of the larger economic paradigm shift. Dreaming up huge, elaborate, credit-intensive, excessive and overly ambitious projects is so 2005. 2009 seems to be the year of the flop. And 2010 will likely be the year of the clean up. Hopefully something can still be salvaged at Dongtang in the aftermath of excess and failure. After all, the Chinese character for crisis is danger + opportunity.


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