China’s central government has an ambitious green infrastructure plan. But will the results live up to the rhetoric?
Three years ago, when flooding in Beijing killed 79 people, the Chinese government was quick to blame the size of the storm, not the city’s failing drainage system. But the excuse didn’t persuade the public. News reports of fatal floods come as regularly to city dwellers as the annual monsoon season.
No longer just a problem for farmers living on flood-prone plains, water has become the nemesis of China’s 680 million urbanites, whose concrete landscape was not built adequately to withstand the forces of nature.
China’s rapid urbanization has been an exercise in laying concrete. As Bill Gates (now famously) tweeted, between 2011 and 2013, China used more cement than the United States did over the entire 20th century. And concrete is not permeable.
A sponge city is one that can hold, clean, and drain water in a natural way using an ecological approach. 11/23/15 Sarah O’Meara on the Atlantic’s CityLab.