China’s eco-towns: Green communities – To go eco, think small

Supporters of eco-towns should learn the lesson from the many experiments in China: smaller scale changes are often more effective

Throughout 2009 we can expect the debate around eco-communities, eco-villages, eco-towns and eco-cities to continue. From the UK to South Korea, plans are being drawn up, funds are being sought (something that just got a whole lot harder) and, occasionally, construction is starting.

But so far the concept of the eco-town – designed to minimise a community’s impact on the environment – has proved rather illusive. And in some instances, planners and developers have been, to use the late UK politician Alan Clark’s famous phrase, somewhat “economical with the actualité”.

China has been the focus of much of the eco-town buzz in recent years. Beijing has pronounced that it likes the idea of eco-towns; several have been planned, widely announced and promoted; and a couple of projects have actually got off the drawing board, although more have stumbled than stood up and walked.

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