Posted: 31 January 2013 1845 hrs
BEIJING: As China continues its rapid urbanisation, the country faces an urgent task to house new urbanites.
Experts suggest the challenge will be to build green and sustainable cities, and prevent them from becoming ghost towns.
And both local and foreign design experts are being engaged to help.
One new town in Ningbo used to be a farmland.
It is still work-in-progress but come 2020, some 170,000 to 200,000 people are expected to live and work there.
This will relieve the load of the neighbouring Ningbo old town, which has become increasingly congested.
Mr Peter Duncan, Managing Director Asia, HASSELL, said: "Cities in the range of one to four million in population are now amounting to the order of several hundred. They are at this point of time expanding rapidly in their growth, so collectively they are fuelling the urbanisation stories of China."
International design firm HASSELL is one of several companies working with the local government to come up with an urban design that is green and sustainable.
The project will take 18 years to complete, and will be built from scratch.
Its core area of over 8 square kilometres will include both commercial and residential space.
Parks and canal waterways will characterise the city.
Specific plants will line waterways to improve water quality through nature's filtration.
Transportation links have also been built to connect the new and old towns, which experts say is important to prevent new developments from becoming ghost towns.
Mr Tang Zi Lai, Dean of Urban Planning Department at Tongji University, said: "The expansion of old towns involves relocation of families, social issues and heritage conservation. For new towns, the plus point is that land is cheaper. The challenge is that it's not as mature as old towns. Investment in public infrastructure must accompany property projects to ensure the new towns will mature in a relatively short time to attract people to stay and work here."
The fast pace and wide scale of urbanisation in China means cities will have to accommodate about 10 million more people each year, over the next 30 years. The building of new towns will be a key focus. But experts say it's also important to make sure they retain their own cultures and history, and not just be replicas of big cities like Shanghai, Beijing or Guangzhou.
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