Suzhou, the waterfront town in Jiangsu Province, east China, is ringing in the changes. The 18 waterways flowing through its downtown area will be rehabilitated to natural rivers. Cargo transportation will be banned, and only small tourist boats are to be allowed to cruise these rivers.
The move is set to benefit Suzhou residents as it will improve water quality, reduce noise from water cargo transportation and raise local residents' quality of life.
There is an ancient Chinese proverb that says, "We have heaven in the sky, and Suzhou on the earth." Suzhou, along with Hangzhou City in neighboring Zhejiang Province, has long been dubbed paradise. These two cities are renowned for their picturesque landscapes. Already 2,500 years old, Suzhou has a longer history than Hangzhou.
The ancient Suzhou was large in size, and the city has been thriving on the same site for thousands of years, a rare case in world history. Suzhou is crisscrossed with waterways, which have given the city its nickname "Venice in the east." Traditionally, local residents built their houses close to water.
In recent decades, Suzhou has experienced rapid economic boom, and along with it some problems. Polluting industries, plus dense population, have subjected the city to heavier and heavier ecological burdens. Some large and medium-sized enterprises have turned the rivers into filthy waterways. This prompted local people to rethink their economic structure and development path.
Suzhou began to boost the development of the tertiary industry while driving such heavy polluters as hydropower and steel plants out of the city. This renders some waterways in the city obsolete, as they are no longer needed for cargo transportation. These waterways can be rehabilitated into normal rivers, where leisure boaters can enjoy the sailing, as was the case in the past.
The renovation of Suzhou mirrors the development history of Chinese cities. Since the late 1970s, many Chinese cities have grown into large modern urban sprawls with little regard for the impact on their original look or natural environment. As a result, cultural relics have been damaged and natural environment has deteriorated.
Now environmental protection has attracted more and more attention. This March, the State Environment Protection Administration was promoted into a ministry. Increasing numbers of cities have come to terms with the importance of protecting both the natural environment and cultural heritage. Like Suzhou, Beijing has stepped up its green efforts. The Chinese capital advocates "people's Olympics" and "green Olympics," and has moved a large steel plant out of the city, and renovated many historical buildings.
We hope that more and more cities will follow the example of Suzhou in bringing a clean and scenic environment back to the people.