Panelists share insights into sustainable future

Wan Lixin
Panelists from home and abroad aired their views on how Shanghai can achieve high-quality development.
Wan Lixin

Panelists from home and abroad aired their views on how Shanghai can achieve high-quality development by committing itself to rebuilding nature in the urban context, better utilizing its resources, and discussed other pressing issues concerning the city’s sustainable development.

The panel, “Celebrity Forum Roundtable Discussion,” as part of the on-going 5th Shanghai International Nature Conservation Festival, was held in Chongming District on Sunday. Among the organizers were municipal science and technology commission, municipal education commission, and Chongming District Government.

In addressing the forum, Zuo Huanchen, Honorary Chairman of Shanghai Science Education Development Foundation, stressed green and low-carbon development as a global consensus, adding that ecology and livable city have become important measures of soft-power and competitivity. Zuo said that Shanghai has taken the lead in the country in enforcing garbage sorting scheme. For a city with a population of more than 30 million, this is a formidable challenge. But sources from relevant authority suggested that the results so far are much better than expected.

She said that since its inception the Conservation Festival has been growing steadily, now involving 20 million people, playing a pivotal role in mobilizing the society at large in protecting nature, and in rebranding the city as a leader exemplifying best practices across the country in this sphere.

In his speech, Zheng Shiling, member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and professor at Tongji University, cited the challenges of envisioning the future of a city encumbered with a huge population and endowed with very limited natural resources in terms of land and water supply. Given the crippling limitations, the priority today for urban designers is how to put a cap on construction land use while at the same time significantly add to the green space.

As part of the initiatives, Zheng revealed, both farming and industrial land in the city would be reduced, so as to make room for more green space.

Given the demographics and limitations in land supply, one solution is to redevelop existing industrial parks to make them more cost-efficient and economical, according to Yu Lizhong, Chancellor, Shanghai New York University. He also mentioned ecological compensation, given Chongming’s commitment to becoming a world-level ecological island.

Public awareness

Mahouton N. Hounkonnou, president of Benin National Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters, cited the importance of enhanced ecological awareness on the part of the general public, through education, so that everybody can get involved and become aware of our status quo, and the challenges confronting us. There is the need of going about our ecological education in an active manner, in term of school syllabus design, so that environmental awareness becomes part and parcel of our education.

Apparently, this education should also extend to our drinking water. Gu Yuliang, director of National Engineer Research Center of Urban Water Resources (South), opened his discussion by relating an anecdote. He was approached one night for advice as to what water to drink by a perplexed neighbor.

Is tap water good for drink?

Gu said that as a matter of fact, tap water should be what is formally known as “drinkable water.” Shanghai’s tap water is drinkable. Data from local disease control authority suggested that tap water tested predominantly meet various criteria for drinking water.

The real challenge is how to help water reach us real fast, for if water stays put for any length of time in a tank atop a building during high summer, it could give rise to the issue of microorganisms.

Panelists spoke glowingly of progress in the city’s garbage sorting, but sorting itself is not the ultimate solution. According to Hannah Bailey, curator, Birds and Animal Records of Houston Zoo, Inc, of more importance is how to reduce the amount of rubbish we produced.

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