Bridging social gaps with ecological restoration
Bridging social gaps with ecological restoration - ©city of Wuhan

Bridging social gaps with ecological restoration

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Main actors

City Government, Private Sector, Public Utility, other, Research Institutes / Universities

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Project area

Neighborhood or district

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Ongoing since 2015/01

The City of Wuhan has revitalized one of the most polluted areas of the city into an ecological space for citizens.

The abandoned Jinkou Landfill and Zhanggong Dkye were the two largest sources of pollution in the city of Wuhan. Consequently, despite the expansion of the city, its commercial, educational and public health infrastructure lagged behind the growing need of the people - a deserted garbage dump and an abandoned dyke formed a “pollution divide” which widened the ecological and economic gap.

In 2015 the city government launched, a restoration project for the area covering 213 hectares to create a suitable site for the China International Garden Expo. The initial project exceeded both city officials and residents’ expectations and the waste dump is now a recreational park and the dyke an urban forest used by pedestrians and cyclists. The project forms part of Wuhan’s General Urban Planning scheme (2010-2020) and has improved the quality of life for 14 adjacent communities that house approximately 400,000 people.

Sustainable Development Goals

Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss

Guangzhou Award

This project was awarded the 'Guangzhou Award' in 2018.

Wuhan, China

Size and population development
2011: 9,158,000, 1990: 3,417,000, 2025: 12,727,000; 2010-2015: +2.83% / year

Population composition
mainly Han-Chinese

Main functions
transport hub, sub-provincial city, one of the main agglomerations in central China, educational hub

Main industries / business
optic-electronics, automobiles, steel, pharmaceutics, trade, education

Administrative structure
13 districts

Jinkou landfill opened in 1989 and closed in 2005 due to low safety standards.  The landfill contained some 5 million cubic meters of waste, enough to cover 60 soccer fields.  Leachate generated by the solid waste formed into a thick black and toxic pond.  The site became a breeding ground for rats, flies and mosquitoes. Local residents were disinclined to open windows and doors due to the smell and insects. Waste gas, water and residue produced by the landfill polluted the surround air, soul and underground water.

At the edge of Jinkou landfill lies Zhanggong Dyke, a project initiated in the Qing Dynasty that functioned poorly in modern times – when the wind blew, the whole area was enveloped by dust and formed a “gray belt”.

In January 2009, the city of Wuhan proposed plans of a comprehensive ecological restoration of the closed landfill and dyke. In 2012, a decision was made to fund the re-development of the area as the main venue for the 10th session of China’s International Garden expo.

This project is based on Crowdfunding+Co-construction Model and solicited public opinions and suggestion on the Chinese Government Public Information Online platform. It aims to engage in effective partnership with the government, academics, business and the public to deal with this large-scale environmental challenge. This project advocates the idea of “letting ecosystem become the chief designer.” It proposes an ecology-oriented urban innovation and reform to achieve sustainable development.

The main initiatives of the project are:

  1. To prevent the landfill and the dyke from polluting the city and to mitigate the negative environmental impact on city dwellers.
  2. To ensure a good ecological environment in the city and guarantee the quality of air and drinking water.
  3. To bridge “pollution divide”, restoring the quality of life and to improve the desirability of these neighborhoods.
  4. To ease the city’s ecological and economic imbalance as well as the widening gap between the rich and poor in the wake of the environmental damage.
  5. To make "Ecological Environment First" as the city’s new development pattern and promote the synergies of industrialization, innovation and city culture.
  6. To build a more inclusive and sustainable city.

The lead agency for the project is the City of Wuhan. In terms of scale, this was an unprecedented initiative by the municipal government of Wuhan and called upon the following actors and partners to fulfil different roles:

  1. Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development of the PRC, Hubei People’s Provincial Government, Wuhan People’s Municipal Government and Wuhan Gardening and Forestry Bureau led and coordinated different parties.
  2. Wuhan Landscape Construction Development (Group) Co., Ltd. was charged with investment, construction and operation of the project.
  3. 82 cities in China contributed human and technical resources including engineers and designers; experts were seconded from 12 countries. They assisted in project implementation and construction.
  4. Tsinghua University provided technological support.

The resources used for the implementation are as follows:

  • Source capital: A total investment of RMB 4.75 billion, 25% of which was direct investment from the Wuhan Municipal Government, 75 % financed by Wuhan Landscape Construction Development (Group) CO., LTD and China Development Bank. The initiative also received an investment of RMB 4 billion from other participating Chinese cities. The three administrative districts (Dongxihu District, Qiaokou District and Jianghan District) involved in this project invested hundreds of millions of yuan in the expropriation and compensation of lands, relocation for the related households and companies, upgrading peripheral facilities and so on.
  • Technology: Cutting-edge technologies in architecture and landscape design were introduced by domestic and international experts and partners. Three Pritzker Architecture Prize winners, one European architect with ecological philosophy, four landscape design masters, the director of Landscape Architecture in Harvard University, teachers and students majoring in landscape design from worldwide universities were also engaged in the initiative. Chuck Comisky, then vision sector director for "Avatar", was in charge of designing the 4D experience scenes in the park. A professional committee was set up to provide technological and intellectual support for the initiative, consisting of academicians, scholars and experts in the field of city planning, architecture, landscape, botany and literature.
  • Managerial resource: The Wuhan Municipal Government coordinated the work of over 100 different construction teams and up to 100 project units

The project has won a number of awards including the C40 Cities Award 2015, China Habitat Environment Example Prize 2015, China Humanitarian Example Prize 2016 and the Guangzhou Award 2018.

This initiative has had the following results and impact:

  1. The ecology has been improved: birds and people are returning to the city and clear water and lush green areas are being restored. According to third-party research, over 90% of ormer residents are willing to move back and 60% of them have already done so.
  2. It has reduced pollution, improved the livelihood of almost 100,000 people in 14 communities, promoted economic and social growth, and closed the development gap between different districts of Wuhan city.
  3. Wuhan has lacked public entertainment and cultural facilities. With the completion of Garden Expo Park, residents have access to parks and museums - Changjiang River Civilization Museum and Behring River & Life Museum, which form the first natural science museum in Wuhan.)
  4. Infrastructure for the area has increased: 19 roads have been constructed or restored; two bus lines and two subway lines have been built nearby, and now there are more than 20 bus lines and two subway lines offering services ; three mobile public restrooms and 400 trash cans have been set up; 1.27-kilometer-long drainage moved underground, reducing its pollution to surrounding area; substations established to meet electricity demand; over 28,000 plants planted and green belt and small gardens covering 183,000 square meters built. Additionally, two new schools have opened to accommodate a growing number of residents.
  5. Business opportunities, employment and property appreciation have increased., keeping pace with the overall market. In the past, no one would rent shops here, now all kinds of stores, including supermarkets, restaurants and laundries and car-washing shops, have started their business in this area.
  6. Confidence of residents has been boosted. “My Garden Expo, My Home” working group gave away 140,000 pots of flowers and invited horticulturists to teach people about gardening techniques
  7. The green area per capita in Qiaokou District, where Garden Expo Park is located, has increased by 3.1 square meters. The project has raised Wuhan’s green area per capita by 0.2 square meters, which accounts for 2% of that before the restoration.

The initiative is complex and involves many aspects including garbage disposal, sewage pipe replacement, shanty town demolition, subway building, and city renovation innovation. Think-tanks, online forums and surveys were conducted help address the barriers and challenges.

This project has conducted exploratory practice to repay “ecological debt” and resolve long-term issues in urbanization process. Primarily, the practice of the Garden+Social Humanity pattern for ecological restoration has addressed pollution, narrowed the ecological and economic development gap caused by pollution within the city, and reduced income disparities and inequality. In addition, this project advocates ideas of “letting ecosystem become the chief designer” and “urban governance should prioritize ecology”. Furthermore, CrowdFunding+Co-construction Model gathers government, people from all walks of life, experts and the public to tackle the huge environmental challenge.

After the project was promoted, many cities and institutions came to Wuhan to exchange experience. The ecological restoration model has transferred to ecological projects under construction in Qinhuangdao and Hengshui in Hebei, Zhengzhou in Henan, Huangshi in Hubei.

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Guangzhou Award
Guangzhou, China

Guangzhou Award

Institution | Urban Award

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