greenhouse emission


Dongtan is a new eco-city planned for the island of Chongming, near Shanghai, China. The name of the city literally translates as "East Beach".

Dongtan was designed by Arup, a British engineering firm, and is being built on a major wetland site that was formerly used for small-scale agriculture and by migrating water birds.


Dongtan was planned to open, with accommodation for 50,000, in time for the Expo 2010 in Shanghai. By 2040, the city is slated to be one-third the size of Manhattan, with a total planned population of 500,000. The project has fallen behind schedule, with Arup's architects expecting only a tenth of the expected population to be in place by 2010.


Dongtan was presented at the United Nations World Urban Forum by China as an example of an eco-city, and is the first of up to four such cities to be designed and built in China by Arup. The cities are planned to be ecologically friendly, with zero-greenhouse-emission transit and complete self-sufficiency in water and energy, together with the use of zero energy building principles. However, the planned ecological footprint for each citizen in Dongtan is currently 2.2 hectares, higher than the 1.9 hectares that the World Wildlife Fund claims is theoretically sustainable on a global scale.

Dongtan proposes to have only green transport movements along its coastline. People will arrive at the coast and leave their cars behind, traveling along the shore as pedestrians, cyclists or on sustainable public transport vehicles. The only vehicles allowed in the city will be powered by electricity or hydrogen. Houses are now selling here to Shanghai middle classes for use when spending weekends away from the city. The Controlling authorities are now backtracking on these commitments and allowing private vehicles onto the site.

EPSRC, the UK funding body for academic research, is supporting four Dongtan research networks of UK and Chinese universities to study the research agenda for eco-city design. Arup is assisting in the coordination of these networks and in planning associated Institutes for Sustainability.


The reaction to Dongtan has been mixed. Former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone has praised the project as pioneering work leading to a more sustainable future, while others are concerned that it will not have a big impact on reforming existing cities, which will still house the majority of the Chinese population.

The main builders, Arup, are also taking part in many less environmentally-friendly projects in China, including airports and office blocks. Arup recently received the Greenwash award from the Ethical Corporation Magazine for the most dubious green claim of the year, with Dongtan described as a Potemkin village.

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