Floodings and storm are pretty common in China, but since 2015 the concept of so-called sponge cities are developed to mitigate the potential damage. Real estate expert Sam Crispin, director Urbanization of PwC China explores in his article at LinkedIn the opportunities for foreign partnership in developing this concept.
Sponge infrastructure can offer spaces for a range of activity and has potential to improve liveability of cities bringing better quality of life. This in turn can help cities attract and retain talent. As we know from cities like London and New York, the constant influx of talent makes them stand out and compete on the global stage. Most of the Chinese sponge cities cannot expect to compete on that level just yet but they can all find an appropriate way to attract talent by finding their own individual way to make best use of the opportunity. Tourism and convention centres always benefit from a greener environment and tourism is a great way to develop and nurture talent for the service industry. In this way Chinese cities can use new, greener sponge city areas to support their economic growth strategies.
Benefits may not be leisure and tourism related. Medical clusters, or any other industry that benefits from improved environments to attract investment and talent, can be planned on an appropriate scale for the location. Once you start a medical cluster a whole new supply chain can evolve that later results in bio-tech, pharma and other related high return industries. These are all opportunities for some of China’s Sponge Cities that go beyond water resource management.
While the term Sponge City may be new, the concept of Sustainable Drainage (UK), Low Impact Development (US) and Water Sensitive Urban Design (Australia) are well established. Where China may have a distinct advantage is in pioneering such large scale systems together with potential for public, private partnership financing. Taken together with Chinese experience of large scale planning and urban development it is time for China’s urbanisation model to become an export across not only the developing world but also to those areas of the developed world looking for a new approach and seeking to link and integrate existing regions and clusters of smaller cities into something more functional and competitive than exists today.
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