Big plans in store for a get­away eco-re­treat at the mouth of the Yangtze

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COVER STORY - By QU YINGPU in Shang­hai quy­ingpu@chi­

It is part of Shang­hai mu­nic­i­pal­ity and only about 70 kilo­me­ters from down­town as the crow flies, but Chong­ming dis­trict is so dis­tinctly dif­fer­ent that it could just as well be at the other end of the coun­try.

Lo­cated at the mouth of the Yangtze River, it con­sists of three al­lu­vial is­lands: Chong­ming, Changx­ing and Heng­sha.

Past the 25-kilo­me­ter-long Shang­hai Yangtze River Tun­nel and Bridge that con­nects both re­gions, vis­i­tors to Chong­ming is­land — it is the third largest in the coun­try af­ter Tai­wan and Hainan — find an idyl­lic space where na­ture reigns.

In­stead of the shiny sky­scrapers, glitzy shop­ping malls and high-rise apart­ments that are ubiq­ui­tous in Shang­hai, the is­land has lush farm­lands, forests, wet­lands, lakes and water­ways.

The re­gion is a pop­u­lar week­end get­away des­ti­na­tion for those liv­ing in main­land Shang­hai, and the most com­mon ac­tiv­i­ties in­clude cy­cling, bird watch­ing, strolling through for­est parks and vis­it­ing its quaint small towns and vil­lages.

For those who go to the is­land to get away from the hus­tle and bus­tle of main­land Shang­hai, news of plans for the re­gion to be de­vel­oped into a “world-class eco­log­i­cal is­land” by 2040 must be mu­sic to the ears.

Ac­cord­ing to the gen­eral sched­ule of the master plan, made pub­lic in July, wet­lands will ac­count for 45 per­cent of the to­tal space on the silk­worm-shaped is­land, up from the present 38 per­cent. For­est cov­er­age will rise to 35 per­cent and the green land per capita will be raised from the cur­rent 6.8 sq m to 20 sq m, to be­come higher than the global av­er­age of 32 per­cent and equiv­a­lent to the North Amer­ica’s 34 per­cent.

But what ex­actly should a world­class eco­log­i­cally friendly is­land look like?

“There is no ex­am­ple in the world for us to learn from but, as I un­der­stand it, we will fo­cus on show­cas­ing the unique­ness and progress of Chong­ming,” said Wu Zhaozhong, deputy gover­nor of Chong­ming dis­trict.

The project to de­velop Chong­ming is­land into a world-class eco­log­i­cal par­adise was kicked off in Fe­bru­ary, and the city gov­ern­ment has plowed about 50 bil­lion yuan ($7.6 bil­lion) into the first batch of 33 key projects aimed at ini­tially im­prov­ing the en­vi­ron­ment and in­fra­struc­ture.

The project is part of Shang­hai gov­ern­ment plans for the city to be­come an ex­cel­lent global city in ar­eas such as in­no­va­tion, science and tech­nol­ogy. The Chong­ming project rep­re­sents the city’s green am­bi­tions.

Be­fore the dis­trict gov­ern­ment for­mu­lated the Chong­ming master plan, it did ex­ten­sive re­search on eco­log­i­cal is­lands world­wide, ac­cord­ing to Wu. It found that most are pro­tected zones that are not in­hab­ited.

Chong­ming is­land, on the other hand, is home to about 670,000 peo­ple, and therein lies the chal­lenge for the au­thor­i­ties — cre­at­ing an en­vi­ron­ment that can fit the re­quire­ments of a “world-class eco­log­i­cal is­land” while en­sur­ing that there are still in­dus­tries for lo­cals to work in.

Zhang Guokun, di­rec­tor of Shang­hai Mu­nic­i­pal Agri­cul­tural Com­mis­sion, said dur­ing a re­cent gov­ern­ment rou­tine news con­fer­ence that the eco­log­i­cal agri­cul­ture in­dus­tries on the is­land will be fur­ther de­vel­oped in line with this vi­sion.

“In fu­ture Chong­ming will be able to meet the grow­ing de­mands for high-qual­ity agri­cul­tural prod­ucts from Shang­hai res­i­dents,” Wu said. “This will be the core in­dus­try in Chong­ming.”

Agri­cul­ture now ac­counts for just 0.39 per­cent of the city’s GDP. As part of the master plan, the Chong­ming gov­ern­ment plans to raise its field area of eco­log­i­cal agri­cul­ture from the cur­rent 31 per­cent to more than 90 per­cent in 2020. Given that there is lim­ited farm­land on the is­land, the fo­cus would be on qual­ity in­stead of quan­tity. Cre­at­ing the is­land’s own brands is another part of the plan.

The tourism in­dus­try would have a role to play in the is­land’s growth as well, Wu said.

“Aban­doned homes and old farm cab­ins have al­ready at­tracted some artists. In fu­ture it is pos­si­ble that farm­ers’ homes will be used to house artists and crafts peo­ple.”

Gu Huim­ing, di­rec­tor of the dis­trict plan­ning and land bu­reau, said Chong­ming’s land­scape will fol­low the tra­di­tional Chi­nese style with abun­dant water­ways on the is­land as the foun­da­tion. The is­land’s small and rus­tic vil­lages, which are made up of homes fea­tur­ing tra­di­tional East China ar­chi­tec­ture, will con­tinue to flank the me­an­der­ing water­ways, he said.

“We won’t build big build­ings and broad roads. In­stead, we will have more small houses tucked away in the forests and along nar­row path­ways through the fields.

“If we suc­ceed, Chong­ming will be a good ex­am­ple of how an eco­log­i­cal is­land can ac­com­mo­date a large pop­u­la­tion. We will be­come the only place in the world to achieve this.”


Top: Dong­tan Wet­land in Chong­ming. The re­gion is to be de­vel­oped into a “world-class eco­log­i­cal is­land” by 2040. Shang­hai to spend their week­end there. Above:

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