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Lessons from Dongtan, the continually shrivelling eco-city

From Paul French, China editor, in Shanghai.

It’s been several years now since Ethical Corporation awarded Arup our most coveted Greenwasher of the Year award for their non-existent smoke-and-mirrors eco-city at Dongtan on Chongming Island close to Shanghai.

Such plans…such dreams…such positive reaction from the press, bloggers and NGOs…and yet nothing has ever happened, ground has never been broken, construction permits have lapsed and Arup isn’t answering enquiries from journalists any more about the project.

Everything was supposed to be up and running at Dongtan in time for the Shanghai EXPO this year – now almost half way through.

Arup may have gone quiet and come over all shy about Dongtan while the Shanghai government seems to act as if it never existed (due to the local Communist Party Secretary who championed the project remaining under House Arrest on corruption charges) but some still remember.

Good then to see the New York Times recently ran a Special Report entitled Plans Shrivel for Chinese Eco-City.

The usual arguments as to why the project has never happened are run through again – Ethical Corp readers will be familiar with them.

Additionally interesting to note a comment from Richard Brubaker of the China Europe International Business School, based in Shanghai, that the ‘planners failed to adequately consult with the community.’ – ‘adequately’ here meaning ‘not at all’.

Dongtan should stand as warning signal to everyone that when large corporates make great claims for eco-projects like Dongtan we all need to be vigilant and do the follow up. Meanwhile Arup continues to speak at conferences and give presentations with expensive CGI images of Dongtan invariably neglecting to point out that it has never happened!!

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