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Eco-town spearheads city's drive for sustainable future
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Shen Zhen and his six college classmates decided to get away from campus and take a break from their studies with a picnic at South Lake Park.

File photo: South Lake Park in Tangshan, an old industrial city in northern China's Hebei province. [www.ungou.com]

File photo: South Lake Park in Tangshan, an old industrial city in northern China's Hebei province. [www.ungou.com]

As they lay down their backpacks and spread out blankets, no one in the group had any idea they were right on top of a former garbage dump which used to hold as much as 4.5 million cubic meters of domestic waste and coal dust.

"The park is so beautiful that we can hardly imagine it used to be a dump site," Shen said. "We plan to spend a whole day here. Go for a walk and then have a picnic on the grass under big trees."

South Lake Park's history didn't bother shen nor the more than 300,000 other people who visited it when it first opened to the public May 1, 2009. The crowds were seen as a sign of success for Tangshan, an old industrial city in northern China's Hebei province, which is in the process of re-defining itself.

"Transforming the refuse dump into a scenic park marks a change the city is trying to make to shake off its problem of relying too much on resources for development," said Zhao Yong, secretary of the Tangshan Committee of the Communist Party of China.

An industrial base dating back to 1840, Tangshan has left indelible marks on the development of China's modern industry. It is where China's first mechanized coal mine and first standard-gauge railroad were built. It produced the country's first steam locomotive and first piece of toilet porcelain ware.

Power generation, steel, machinery and motor vehicle production along with coal mining have long been its pillar industries. Now the cost from years of natural resource exploitation is beginning to show.

Tangshan's coal and iron ore reserves would be used out in 50 years. That and the consequences from serious ecological deterioration, has prompted city authorities to seek new ways to support its economy.

The garbage dump, for instance, used to be 1,800 hectares of mines which caved in as a result of years production. People then began to throw trash there. As it is only two kilometers away from downtown Tangshan, the dump became the city's eyesore.

To remedy the situation, Tangshan decided to build a proper landfill beginning in 1996. Sources with the Ecology Management Commission (EMC) of the South Lake Eco District said coal dust was moved and used to build hills for the park. Two pipes were installed to remove percolating liquid and to transmit methane produced by the sealed garbage.

The landfill was then covered with trees and grass. An artificial lake was also built.

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