An oasis in the concrete jungle

Li Qian
Regarded as a megacity with an ever-growing population, Shanghai is actually at the forefront of a green and sustainable future thanks to government efforts.
Li Qian
An oasis in the concrete jungle
Dong Jun / SHINE

The Dongtan Wetland in Chongming Isand

Fast-paced and densely-populated, Shanghai is often seen as a megacity made of concrete and steel. However, beyond the concrete jungle lies an environmental-friendly city with a focus on green communities and sustainable development.

Since 2017, the city’s investment in environmental protection has exceeded 230 billion yuan (US$32.7 billion), and over the years its green sector has accounted for at least 3 percent of the city’s GDP.

Going green has created business opportunities.

In the first half of this year, foreign-investment projects launched in Shanghai saw a 49.2 percent year-on-year increase. The contract value of foreign investment grew 6.3 percent and the actual foreign investment value increased 13.9 percent compared with the same period last year.

By the end of June, nearly 700 multinational companies had set up or moved their regional headquarters to Shanghai. Meanwhile, the city is home to more than 400 foreign-invested innovation centers and more than 200,000 working foreigners — nearly a quarter of the nation’s total.

Last year, Tesla launched its first overseas Gigafactory in the city’s coastal Lingang area, the smart manufacturing base in the Pudong New Area. It is the largest foreign-funded manufacturing project yet to be built in Shanghai.

Not only impressed by the business ecosystem, Tesla also resonated with the city’s green development concept.

Currently, Shanghai has 274,500 new energy cars, becoming the No. 1 in the country, and it has released a set of policies such as special subsidies and free plates to encourage more use.

Compared with other cities and provinces, Shanghai, with its limited land yet increasing population, faces severe environmental challenges. But city officials have found a solution in launching a quality-oriented economic shift.

The city is advancing the structural readjustment by reducing reliance on the smokestack and labor-intensive industries, real estate businesses and investment-driven projects. 

By the end of June, Shanghai’s outlying western Qingpu District had closed 247 electroplating factories, chemical enterprises and steel manufacturers and other enterprises with low efficiency yet high costs and pollution.

It has saved energy equivalent to burning 300,000 tons of coal. It has also vacated land of more than 11.6 square kilometers, making room for future industries. Currently, 95 companies in industries such as new materials, biological medicine and high-end equipment have moved in. Of them, 72 have been put into use, creating an average output value of 3 million yuan per mu (667 square meters).

Going green has made Fengxian richer. Last year, the total output value of above-scale industrial enterprises reached 170 billion yuan for the first time, with a year-on-year increase of 9.7 percent. The rate of growth is the second highest in the city’s districts.

Chongming, China’s third largest island which covers nearly a fifth of Shanghai’s land area, is another great example of sustainable development.

With its aim of becoming a world-class ecological island, Chongming aims to keep its population limited to 700,000, control the number of real estate projects and prohibit any new buildings higher than 18 meters.

Currently, more than 26 percent of Chongming is forested, supplying 40 percent of the city’s ecological resources. And it will host the 2021 China Flower Expo.

Thanks to its ecological system, Chongming has well-developed agriculture and tourism industries

Local farm Luhua has benefited. Its sweet, juicy and soft Cuiguan pears were sold out less than two weeks after they went to market. “Good environment can make money,” said a farm executive.

In a wet market on Xuanhua Road in downtown Changning District, rice, vegetables and fruit planted in Chongming sell like hotcakes.

“Indeed, Chongming’s food sells better than others,” said Wang Tingfeng, of the Jingjie agricultural company. “Chongming has become a brand and symbol for high quality food.”

Chongming is also a popular natural getaway for city dwellers. Last year, it received 6.35 million visitors and made 1.33 billion yuan from tourism.

It requires great regional efforts to build a good ecosystem because we share same water and air. So, the city has joined hands with other cities and provinces in the Yangtze River Delta region to make the sky blue and the water clean. 

Currently, Shanghai, Jiangsu, Anhui and Zhejiang have more than 400 air quality monitoring sites. The data collected is analyzed at the regional air quality forecast center in Shanghai, which has served many great events such as the G20 summit, the Nanjing Youth Olympic Games and the China International Import Expo.

In 2013, a regional team to tackle air pollution was formed. In 2017, levels of hazardous PM2.5 particles in Shanghai and 24 cities in Jiangsu and Zhejiang decreased by 34.3 percent.

Cooperation has continued over years. In October last year, a regional ecological system joint research center was unveiled in Shanghai.

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