The International Conference on Sustainable Urbanization Strategies 2003 opened yesterday in the coastal city of Weihai, northeast China’s Shandong Province, attracting more than 230 representatives from 30 countries and regions to discuss sustainable urbanization and economic, social and environmental development.
The event is being sponsored by the United Nations Human Habitat Committee, China's Ministry of Construction and Weihai municipal government. The decisions of the conference will be referred to the Second World City Forum to be held by the UN in Barcelona next September.
Qiu Baoxing, vice-minister of construction, said his ministry has worked hard to ensure that the nation's urbanization strategies have distinctly Chinese characteristics.
China's urbanization process is taking place at a very fast rate. To date, the country has established 662 cities and 20,358 towns, with a total population of nearly 500 million. The urbanization level has increased from 26.4 percent in 1990 to 37.7 percent.
The minister said promoting urbanization is an important mission for the Chinese government in its work to build a comprehensively well-off society. The country has set up scientific and rational urban systems, insisting on the co-ordinated development of large, medium and small cities and towns, and adapting the urbanization process to suit economic and social development levels.
Information technology and marketization will also help provide a better habitat for people. Meanwhile the country will intensify ecological environmental construction and work to further control pollution, the minister added.
"The sustainable development of urbanization is the most pressing challenge facing the world in the 21st century," said Lars Ret'utersward, director of the global department of the UN Habitat Committee.
"Urban areas create wealth and opportunities for society, but they also create disease, pollution and poverty if they are not managed well. The UN Habitat Committee will promote discussions and cooperation on global sustainable urbanization, and share the best samples and lessons with all countries."
The city of Weihai is a model of sustainable urbanization strategies in China, with its urbanization rate reaching 51 percent. In October the city received the UN Habitat Scroll of Honor Award 2003 for its outstanding contributions in improving its habitat and environment.
Besides Weihai, Shandong and Jiangsu provinces, and the cities of Guangzhou, Xi'an and Kunming also introduced their experiences in sustainable urbanization at the conference.
(China Daily November 4, 2003)