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Experts suggest: Encourage megacities
By Xin Dingding (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-09-27 07:49

China's megacities should be encouraged and developed with people in mind, experts said during a forum yesterday.

More than 300 experts, officials, professionals, academics and senior business executives from 43 cities in 25 countries around the world attended the forum in Nantong, East China's Jiangsu Province.

Beijing, a big metropolis with more than 10 million population, is a festive mood for the National Day holiday on October 1. [newsphoto]
The goal of the forum was to find ways to overcome cultural, ecological, humanistic and social problems in the development of megacities. It was co-sponsored by the Bo'ao Forum of Asia (BFA) and the China Association of Mayors.

It was the "first significant effort to compel international attention to the problems and the future of megacities," said Fidel Valdez Ramos, former President of the Philippines and Chairman of the BFA Board of Directors.

The concept of megacities was first put forward in the 1950s by French geographer Jean Gottmann (1915-94) to describe the metropolitan area from Boston to Washington.

According to Gottmann, a megacity should have a population of at least 25 million with a density of at least 250 people per square-kilometre.

At present, there are at least five areas in the world which could be considered megacities, including the coastal cities along the Atlantic Ocean in Northeastern United States, the megacities around the Great Lakes in North America, Japan's Pacific Ocean coastal cities, megacities in Northwestern Europe, and the area around London in Great Britain.

Beijing, with over 10 million population, is one of the largest cities in China and still expands. [newsphoto file]
Representatives from all five megacities attended the forum.

Mayors from 16 cities in the Yangtze River Delta also attended the forum.

The Yangtze River Delta, with Shanghai as the core, is one of China's three most urbanized regions, besides the Pearl River Delta in South China and the region in North China with Beijing and Tianjin as the centre.

The delta covers about 1 per cent of China's territory and has 6 per cent of the total population.

The area produces 19.5 per cent of the whole country's GDP, attracted 47.8 per cent of the total foreign investment and imported and exported 32.2 per cent of the total trade amount last year, according to official statistics.

However, when compared with the five megacities around the world, the Yangtze River Delta still lags behind.

Niu Wenyuan, an expert with the China Academy of Science, said the area should produce at least 65 per cent of China's total GDP.

Shanghai, China's largest metropolis with more than 16 million residents, still grows. This file photo shows its bustling Nanjing Road, a commercial center in the city. [newsphoto] 
Niu promoted a three-dimensional strategy to develop three megacities, seven city belts and core cities for the benefit of China's economy.

Before the year 2000, China dared not encourage the expansion of big cities, and held a belief that urbanization should be carried out in a balanced way, which is against the development of megalopolis, Niu said.

Economic development, however, should not be the only goal, representatives said.

They also urged urban planners to design livable megacities.

Addressing pollution problems should be at the top of the agenda, many said.

Thomas Lee Zearley, an expert with the World Bank, said two of China's most dynamic regions have already began dealing with water pollution.

Shanghai has applied to the World Bank for US$700 million in three phases over eight years.

US$200 million was approved in 2003 to develop the framework for metropolitan wide policies and support the development of new financing mechanisms and facilitate private sector participation.

The Pearl River Delta in South China's Guangdong Province faced the same problem, and more and more serious water pollution in the delta has threatened the drinking water supply and long-term development in the region, he said.

The problem is the lack of a co-ordinated approach, he said.

So far, the World Bank has loaned US$128 million to the province to improve waste water treatment and hazardous waste services in Guangzhou.

And two more projects are in the works, focusing on cleaning the Shenzhen River and support waste water treatment and solid waste disposal in Foshan and Jiangmen, two cities in the delta.

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