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UPDATED: November 28, 2011 NO. 48 DECEMBER 1, 2011
Livable Tangshan
Tangshan shifts focus from heavy industry to environmental friendly development

SCENIC BEAUTY: A bird's-eye view atop the hill in the center of the Nanhu Ecological Park in the south of Tangshan City (BAI SHI)

Tangshan, Hebei Province, is known as the cradle of Chinese industry, and for its miraculous comeback after a devastating earthquake in 1976 that killed 242,000 people. Today a new miracle is improving the air quality of this once heavily polluted city.

Tangshan is 154 km to the east of Beijing and has abundant mineral resources, making it an excellent location for developing heavy industry. People have found 49 kinds of minerals in Tangshan so far. There are up to 4.9 billion tons of coal reserves, making Tangshan a major base of coking coal in China. Also, Tangshan has iron ore reserves of 5.4 billion tons and is one of the three largest iron ore deposits in the country. Tangshan established an integrated industry system in the late 20th century, including electric power, textiles, ceramics, cement, steel and machinery.

But its great achievements in the industrial sector spoiled the natural environment and affected the sustainable development of Tangshan. A century of exploitation of coal mines has caused a large subsidence area near the city. China has emphasized environmental protection in recent years, so the Tangshan Municipal Government decided to improve the ecological environment and advocate a low-carbon lifestyle. Moreover, this objective has major appeal for all citizens of Tangshan.

In recent years, the Tangshan Municipal Government has given priority to city renovation and staged large-scale construction to boost urbanization, aiming to build a beautiful city suitable for living. A total of 65 old residential communities have been renovated and reconstructed since 1998. From 2007 to 2010, the municipal government built 15 million square meters of new housing as well as many disposal plants for recycling waste water and garbage.

The Nanhu Ecological Park, which was launched in 2008, has been the biggest project of urban environment improvement in Tangshan. The park is built on a former subsidence area in the south of the city, which is a result of long-term coal excavation. On this wasteland, piles of garbage were dumped as high as a hill, and the smell of sewage water spread over the area, seriously affecting the daily life of residents nearby. Although the municipal government had planed to improve the environment of this area, the lack of funds hindered the progress.

For this reason, Tangshan adopted a market-oriented approach to addressing the financing difficulty. The city established an administration and a company for city renovation in 2008. The administration was responsible for government affairs of construction, while the company aimed to coordinate with investors and manage the project. By the end of 2010, the Nanhu Ecological Park project had absorbed 70 billion yuan ($11 billion) and half of the project had been completed.

In addition to economic returns, the park also produces huge environmental benefits and employment for urban residents. The project has won a couple of awards and honors, such as the first Hebei Province Human Habitat Environment Award. The Nanhu Ecological Park will also host the International Horticultural Exposition in 2016. The park is a 4A-level national scenery spot and the largest park in Tangshan that is open to the public for free. It covers 1,300 hectares with 165-hectare lake area, attracting 60 kinds of wild birds to the park. From the top of Phoenix Hill in the center of the park, visitors can have a bird's-eye view of woods and rivers that surround the city. Today local residents and tourists often visit the beautiful park and take a breath of fresh air.

About 1 million citizens will move into new houses near the park in the next few years. It is expected that the whole project and a new community can create a lot of employment opportunities and add 20 billion yuan ($3.15 billion) to the total retail sales of consumer goods each year.

Tangshan has transformed itself from a polluted city of heavy industry to a livable city with picturesque and comfortable scenery. Everyone who has visited Tangshan will be astonished by the unexpected natural beauty of this prosperous city.

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