WASHINGTON: The local government of an Eastern China coastal city won a United Nations Habitat award on Monday for well executed urban planning which has transformed the city into a green home with new housing and infrastructure.
The awardee is the municipal government of Rizhao, a coastal city in Shandong province, Eastern China.
"Under the banner Planning an Ecological City and Building a Livable Home, the municipal government (of Rizhao) embarked on major improvements starting with infrastructure which saw improvements on roads, parks, town squares, water supplies, drainage, sewage treatment as well as garbage disposal facilities, "the UN Habitat said at a ceremony held in downtown Washington D.C. to observe the World Habitat Day on Monday.
In a statement recognizing the achievements of Rizhao, the UN Habitat commended the city for emphasizing clean energy and vigorously promoting the use of solar, methane and wind power.
"Utilization rate of solar power has gone up 99 percent. In recognition of these efforts, Rizhao won the first World Clean Energy Award in 2007, and is still the only city in China to achieve that feat," the UN Habitat said.
Owing to the project of Planning an Ecological City and Building a Livable Home, the UN body said, the local economy has improved and in 2008 the GDP reached $9.66 billion.
"People's living conditions have improved while the city is still holding dear to the concept of a 'primitive' ecological environment featuring a blue sky, a blue sea and golden beaches."
About a dozen of individuals, local governments and non- governmental organizations from different countries won awards from the UN Habitat at the ceremony held at the gracious and elegant National Building Museum in Washington D.C..
The United Nations has designated the first Monday of October every year as World Habitat Day, an idea to reflect on the state of towns and cities and the basic right of all to adequate shelter. It is also intended to remind the world of its collective responsibility for the future of the human habitat.
The UN chose the theme Planning our Urban Future for the observance of World Habitat Day this year to raise awareness of the need to improve urban planning to deal with new major challenges of the 21st century.
"The major urban challenges of the 21st century include the rapid growth of many cities and the decline of others, expansion of the informal sector, and the role of cities in causing or mitigating climate change," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said in a written message on the occasion.
He said a troubling trend has emerged in many cities in developed and developing countries alike: the growth of up-market suburban areas and gated communities, on the one hand, and the simultaneous increase in overcrowded tenement zones, ethnic enclaves, slums and informal settlements, on the other.
"Better, more equitable urban planning is essential," the secretary-general said, "Planning is at the heart of this agenda."
"On World Habitat Day, let us pledge to do our part to follow through on our plans for a better, greener, more sustainable future for our increasingly urban planet," Ban said.
In a similar statement delivered on the occasion of World Habitat Day, Anna Kajumulo Tibaijuka, UN under-secretary-general and executive director of the UN Habitat, underscored the necessity for cities around the world to change their urban planning systems, saying that such planning systems are often contributors to urban problems rather than tools for human and environmental improvement.
"It is clear to us ...that current approaches to planning must change and that a new role for planning in sustainable urban development has to be found," she said.
While there is no replacement for planning, Tibaijuka said, urban planning will have to continue to adapt so it is able to carry its much-required effective role in shaping a positive urban future.