New type of urbanization is in the details

Updated: 2014-05-14 07:36

By Zhu Yuan(China Daily)

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Compared with big projects such as the construction of skyscrapers, squares or huge shopping malls, which are local governments and their leaders' favorites, such seemingly small matters as the collection of rainwater, the efficient use of treated water, keeping enough trees in cities for rainwater to supplement groundwater, reasonable city layouts, and so on, do not seem to receive enough attention from many local city governments and their leaders.

The central government has called its drive to bring a large number of villagers into cities a new type of urbanization because it wants to change the old way of urban development, which only emphasized the size of a city.

However, the will of policymakers is one thing, the reality is another.

As far as most of cities are concerned, the reality is that local leaderships have long been obsessed with the pattern of selling land for revenue, which has now become a major or even only source of income to repay loans from banks.

I always worry that the new type of urbanization will turn out to be a feast for the local leaderships concerned, who will have more land to sell and then have more skyscrapers and squares to be built on the land.

Will they learn the lesson of excessive construction of huge projects and lack of concern for the seemingly small matters such as sustainable disposal of garbage and sewage, reasonable drainage systems, rainwater collection and so on? I doubt it.

It seems as if local government leaders are not interested in projects, which will once and for all sustain the quality of urban life. It is common for the roads in China's cities to be dug up pretty often for the maintenance of various kinds of pipelines buried underneath.

It might be because very few local leaders remain in their positions for as long as five or 10 years, and thus they want to see any project completed while they are still in office. It also might be because local officials at various levels love repeated inputs in any project, from which they can always get extra income. If a project is too good to be maintained or renovated, there will be no chance for officials to siphon off extra gains.

A new type of urbanization will not mean happy urban dwellers unless the attention of urban designers and leaders can be diverted to what is really relevant to the quality of urban life.

The author is a senior writer with China Daily.

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