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“European Experience” Helps Zhuhai’s Resilient City Construction 
01 Jun, 2020

Typhoon “Hato” slammed into Zhuhai in August 2017, with a maximum speed of 45m/s (scale 14 according to China wind scale standard). This typhoon marks not only the most devastating one that year landed in China, but also the strongest one that ever happened for more than half a century in the coastal areas of Guangdong Province. 

Climate change has already taken a huge toll on human beings and natural systems; in response to thosechallenges a series of actions have been taken to mitigate the damages. And in this effort, building of climate adaptability that is primarily based on peculiarity of individual cities should also be paid importance to.

Climate change poses high risks to cities

According to the forecast of China Meteorological Administration, climate change would frequent and intensify disasters such as high temperatures, droughts, floods, and rainstorms in the future, and intensify risks in urbanized areas in the country. In order to deal with the urban risks caused by climate change, international communities have proposed the concept of “resilient city”. It is hoped that through construction of resilient cities, cities will enhance capabilities of their urban systems to respond to a variety of internal and external threats and risks, including economic risks and disaster risks, to realize their core values and enhance their competitiveness.

In facing the ever-increasing climate change, the southeast coastal cities in China will sure have to endure increasing pressure to adapt to climate change. Taking Zhuhai as an example, after the “Typhoon Hato” landed, the city’s road system was paralyzed. In the downtown areas, more than 600,000 trees were uprooted, power lines tripped, and power substations lost voltage, impacting around 690,000 households. Not only that, the wireless communication facilities of major mobile operators have been damaged; the city’s Water Supply Plant and Sewage Treatment Plant have all ceased operation, as well as other urban utilities and public facilities.

Not only Zhuhai, many other coastal cities in the southeast of China are also threatened by extreme weather and climate. According to statistics, Hato had caused a direct economic loss to Guangxi and Guangdong and other provinces as high as more than RMB 20 billion.

The challenges facing coastal cities in the southeast of China -- taking Zhuhai as an example

As a typical coastal city, Zhuhai has long been threatened by natural disasters like typhoon and flood that would present challenges to its sustainable development and normal life of its residents. In order to enhance and intensify the exchanges between cities in China and Europe, improve Zhuhai’s resilient city construction, and facilitate a more rational and forward-looking construction of low-carbon ecological city, Zhuhai has officially become part of the EC-Link Project as a comprehensive pilot city in 2015. This is supported by relevant governmental agencies and organizations of China and Europe.

As a representative of fast-growing coastal cities, Zhuhai has seen substantial economic growth and unprecedented changes in land use in the past three decades. However, due to its 690 km coastline and the impact of summer tropical hurricanes, the city is also facing high risk of extreme weather disasters like typhoon, rainstorm and flood.

Furthermore, due to the rapid development of urbanization in the country, most of coastal cities in the southeast region, same as Zhuhai, are also facing great risks and challenges like large populations and high density, increased heat waves, increased heavy rain and haze disasters, and increased risk of salty tide invasion that will impact on the cities’ lifeline systems, quality of human settlements, safety of residents, and security of their properties from time to time.

EC-LINK’s exploration and practice of “resilient city” in Zhuhai

To solve the challenges currently faced by Zhuhai in “resilient city” construction, the EC-LINK Project selected EU experts to conduct a specific survey and research. By looking into Zhuhai’s actual construction of resilient city and by learning advanced European experience, it formulated the “Report on Guidelines, Strategies, and Implementation Consultation on Zhuhai’s Resilient City Construction” (See http://www.eclink.org/upload/attachment/71e057c8ab5242fea1f3f210c42aa0fa.pdf ).

This report envisions that by applying climate change adaptation measures to other fields (such as ecology, urban development, transportation, etc.) it will not only make a contribution to resident safety and citizens’ well-being, but also significantly improve environmental quality. Although the report is focused on the research on Zhuhai’s resilient city construction, it can also bring wisdom and enlightenment to other southeast coastal cities facing similar challenges.

This report conducts multi-aspect researches from multiple perspectives in light of advanced European experience: 

  • Formulate plans based on different scopes: On a macro scope, a city may build a dike system and storm surge barriers to better ensure normal flow of rivers and prevent flood surge. On a microscope, it may build functional facilities for rainwater collection, storage, and regulated emissions.
  • Formulate a comprehensive urban water management strategy: A comprehensive urban water management strategy includes water collection, storage, and drainage at all levels and scopes. For example, at the level of individual buildings, it may reinforce building’s base and facades for preventing flood, moisture, and heat.
  • Carry out multifunctional dike design: While solving the problem of flood control space, the new functions under such design can be harmoniously integrated into the existing environment. Examples of such designs include combination of a dock with a parking garage, building facades with water-blocking function, and building wind turbines on embankments, etc.
  • Formulate comprehensive flood control measures: Comprehensive measures include not only construction of dikes, storm surge barriers and dams, but also include flood control construction methods, spatial development, ecology, transportation planning, etc.
  • Enhance green building design: Application of green buildings can not only effectively reduce urban carbon emissions, but by combining roof greening, reservoir and rainwater penetration to recharge groundwater, it can also restore the natural water cycle process as destroyed by the buildings.

Conclusion

In the face of the increasingly severe impact of global climate change, governments in countries globally have attached great importance to the construction of resilient cities. In China, in order to promote cities to take action for climate change adaptation, the country has specially introduced the paper the City Action Plan for Climate Change Adaptation, and emphasized that cities should take into account the factor of climate change in their urban planning to improve their urban infrastructure design and construction standards so as to deal with the impact of climate change on the cities.