With China's rapid urbanization over the last 20 years, sustainable urban development has become an urgent issue being given increasing attention by most Chinese cities.
According to domestic experts, in the 21st century, China's cities will be modernized to give citizens economic, social and environmental benefits, which must rely on the sustainable development of a city.
Chinese cities began their rapid growth in the late 1970s due to the reform and opening up policies, say the experts.
Statistics show that China now has 668 cities, three times more than 20 years ago. The one-sided pursuit of economic growth caused environmental damage to a greater or lesser degree in the cities.
Therefore, the promotion of a "green" economy and life style will bring great challenges to China's cities, which already face problems of resource shortages, air pollution and ecological deterioration.
The awareness of sustainable development has promoted China's 46 major cities, including Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, provincial capital cities, coastal open cities and cities renowned as tourist destinations, to participate in a large environmental protection program which was launched in 1996.
So far, 33 cities have met state standards for water quality, and 22 have met the standards for air quality with 18 cities designated national environmental protection models.
In addition, the building of "green" cities has also made great strides.
Currently, 20 Chinese cities have been honored with the title "Garden City" with another 20 about to apply for the title which is granted by the state.
In 1986, the urban green coverage rate in China was 16.86 percent. This figure increased to 28.1 percent last year; while the average public green land area per capita increased from 3.45 to 6.8 square meters during this period, according to statistics.
Beijing, China's capital city, has drawn up an ambitious plan to increase its green land coverage to 45 percent by 2010 with an average green space of 15 square meters per resident.
To make sure it meets this goal, the municipal authority will strengthen its urban planning work and take tough measures with illegal buildings, which will be demolished and replaced with greenery wherever possible, said Beijing Mayor Liu Qi recently.
The city now has 10 large green areas, each over 300 hectares. As the host city of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, Beijing is now striving to become a garden city within seven years.
However, experts point out that the title of "Garden City" mainly refers to a city's infrastructure construction and environment enhancement. It cannot be considered a comprehensive indicator of the city's achievements in sustainable development.
A "green" city should also place importance on the balance of economic development and cultural enrichment, the experts say.
(Xinhua News Agency December 17, 2001)