China's Eco-Cities Stumble and Fall

The ambitious green Chinese city of Dongtan was hyped up to be one of the most environmentally friendly cities in the world. But now, like other eco-city plans, work on the project has slowed to a halt.
April 9, 2009, 6am PDT | Nate Berg
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"Today, almost nothing has been built. Some residents have been moved off the island, many of them becoming cab drivers in bustling Shanghai. Although the project was widely publicized internationally, most locals knew little about it. The political leaders who championed the project were ousted in a corruption scandal, and their successors have allowed construction permits to lapse."

"Dongtan and other highly touted eco-cities across China were meant to be models of sustainable design for the future. Instead they've become models of bold visions that mostly stayed on the drawing boards - or collapsed from shoddy implementation. More often than not, these vaunted eco-cities have been designed by big-name foreign architectural and engineering firms who plunged into the projects with little understanding of Chinese politics, culture, and economics - and with little feel for the needs of local residents whom the utopian communities were designed to serve."

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Published on Monday, April 6, 2009 in Yale Environment 360
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