Sino-Dutch seminar addresses Shanghai’s water management

By Chen Shasha Source:Global Times Published: 2017/6/22 17:13:39

A Sino-Dutch "Sponge City" seminar was recently held at Aquatech China 2017, one of the biggest water treatment exhibitions in Asia, at Shanghai's National Exhibition and Convention Center.

The event, the second in a series of seminars in Shanghai, was co-organized by the Netherlands Consulate General in Shanghai in conjunction with local authorities.

Focused on integrated urban water management, the event brought together water management officials, researchers and companies from China and the Netherlands to exchange their experiences and explore new opportunities for further Sino-Dutch cooperation.

Following a short opening introduction given by Anne te Velde, Counselor for Infrastructure and Environment of Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in China, Jaap Smit, the King's Commissioner of the Province of South Holland, and Liu Qianwei, chief engineer of Shanghai Municipal Commission of Housing, Urban-Rural Development and Management, delivered speeches.

Dutch and Chinese experts shared their thinking, planning, research and achievements via illustrations and designs for environmental management for rivers, green land development and regional reconstruction in China.

A "sponge city" is a strategy of managing water resources in urban areas. It helps natural resources, such as rivers and lakes, and civic facilities like parks and gardens, absorb rainfall "like a sponge" and then purify and recycle that water for further use. The Global Times spoke with Liu Qianwei after the seminar to further discuss the sponge city concept.

Aquatech China 2017, one of the biggest water treatment exhibitions in Asia, is held at Shanghai's National Exhibition and Convention Center. Photos: Chen Shasha/GT

GT: What's the significance of a sponge city and its current progress in Shanghai and China?

Sponge city is a concept that involves urban development. Many cities are engaged in pilot programs now. Shanghai is following the requirements of the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development to make 70 percent of rainwater absorbed and utilized by sponge cities. At least 20 percent of developed urban areas shall achieve this by 2020, and 80 percent by 2030. Building a sponge city, however, involves lots of professional projects, like residential area planning and landscape engineering. Therefore, we have a series of criteria, for instance, when we build a road we need to consider permeable pavement which could help collect rainfall and decrease pollution and water runoff. We will complete 200 square kilometers of sponge cities in Shanghai by 2020. Now we have pilot programs in many districts carried out based on regional features. For instance, combining the protection of the water quality of Dishui Lake, 79 square kilometers around this area will be involved in sponge city construction. Projects in Putuo district are processed in parallel with chemical industry zone reconstruction.

GT: The building of a sponge city requires a large volume of capital. Will this bring any difficulties?

China is encouraging what we call a "public-private partnership" model, which requires government and private organizations to work as partners in providing public facilities and services. This model, reflecting a big change in concept to include the whole society in the project, aims to build together and use together. We do need huge investments; it is more important to raise people's awareness and to make them understand that the investment is worthwhile and can produce rewards. It should be noted that the sponge city construction project will not only decrease investments in "gray infrastructure" but also generate a profit. Of course, this needs overall planning; we cannot simply add new concepts and traditional methods together without flexibility.

GT: What are the challenges in building up a sponge city?

The biggest challenges we encounter are how to make them happen and how to achieve sound management and control. Currently, there are fine, mature technologies in this aspect, domestically and abroad. Many foreign countries have programs in China already. The Netherlands and Shanghai share similar geological features: high water marks and a low-lying landscape. Therefore, Dutch companies are cooperating with Chinese companies on such programs.

GT: Some countries like Switzerland and Germany are leading the world in sewage disposal. How does that compare to China?

We can achieve a 91-percent waste disposal rate now. But I think we still need to improve our laws and regulations. In some parts of Germany, rainwater escaping into public areas from residential areas is not allowed, which can reduce the pressure of public facilities and the investment in them. We still have a lot of work to do in legislation, standard-setting and implementation.

Liu Qianwei, chief engineer of Shanghai Municipal Commission of Housing, Urban-Rural Development and Management


Jaap Smit, the King's Commissioner of the Province of South Holland

Newspaper headline: Sponge city


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