'Flexibility' urged in urbanization

By Liu Dong Source:Global Times Published: 2013-12-10 23:03:01

A University of Oxford professor suggested Tuesday that Shanghai should take a more flexible approach to planning, governing and applying new technology to its ongoing urbanization process.

China has been a leading force in the greatest migration in human history, as experts estimate that 75 percent of the world's population will be living in cities by 2030, said Steve Rayner, a professor of Science and Civilization at the University of Oxford, at an Oxford China Lecture in Shanghai Tuesday.

Rayner said that urban planners need to focus on the long-term as their choices will dictate the actions of residents for centuries in the future. He pointed out that London's street grid continues to be shaped by the decisions that Roman planners made 2,000 years ago.

In turn, well-designed "eco-cities" could shape the behavior of populations and serve to promote sustainable living, he said.

Many people have argued that urbanization will only do more damage to the environment, but in fact city dwellers have a far smaller environmental footprint than rural residents in terms of housing, transportation, and water and energy consumption.

"Many big cities like Shanghai that are expanding quickly will face more and more serious urban traffic congestion caused by an increase in population density," he told the Global Times. "Developing more flexible public transportation tools will be necessary for different cities."

Rayner gave several examples to show how technologies that combined the best of the old and the new, such as the traditional floating fishing villages of Asia and the wind towers of the Middle East, can provide a sustainable blueprint for the future. Innovative floating buildings inspired by the fishing villages of China, Vietnam and Cambodia are now being considered as a way to adapt to rising sea levels and flooding.

Two of China's largest cities, Shanghai and Beijing, are in a global network of 40 megacities known as the C40 initiative, in which cities share a common goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Professor Rayner suggested that such collaborations could tackle emissions more effectively than climate change treaties between national governments.

Posted in: Metro Shanghai

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