Officials in the Peoples Republic of China revealed ambitious plans in February 2019. They anticipate the launch of some 300 important construction projects this year in the nation’s capital city, Beijing. Many of the recently approved renovations will improve green spaces and urban infrastructure in downtown areas, including the Tongzhou District. Planners expect the improvements to cost around $35 billion.
A Prominent City
Infrastructure renewal has occurred in Beijing for centuries, of course. Human settlements in this area may date back some 250,000 years. Archaeologists discovered ancient remains in a cave in the City’s Fangshan District, as well as traces of Neolithic Era settlements in downtown locations (including Wangfujing). Originally known at Jicheng in 1045 B.C., Beijing has clearly served as an important population center for thousands of years.
Today, this remarkable city boasts an estimated permanent population of well over 21 million inhabitants. The municipality extends across an impressive 6,000 square miles. Modern Beijing has become an exceedingly densely populated locale; roughly 3,400 people reside within every square mile. The addition of new infrastructure and ecological enhancements should contribute to a better quality of daily life for millions of residents.
Improvements Covering a Broad Spectrum
Reportedly, the current construction projects planned for 2019 cover a variety of different types of upgrades. Roughly a third of the proposals relate to urban infrastructure renewal. Officials describe a third of the new projects as “livelihood” enhancements. The balance of the construction plan seeks to boost business activities involving technology and high tech.
Projects to benefit the City’s environment will likely please numerous residents. Beijing grew significantly in size during the first decade of the Twenty-First Century. Recent rapid population increases in the region accompanied massive air pollution problems. During 2013, residents of Northern China and Beijing experienced significant health concerns as a result of heavy smog. A combination of auto emissions and extensive coal burning likely aggravated these problems. Recently, the government has sought to alleviate poor air quality in the Beijing Area by restricting the use of vehicles with poor emissions controls while encouraging more residents to rely on mass transit.
Dust Storm Concerns
Possibly some of the ecological improvement measures will also address another environmental concern which has degraded air quality in the capital city during recent years? Reportedly, some locations in Northern parts of China witnessed severe desert erosion over the course of the nation’s rapid industrialization. Problems resulting from seasonal dust storms have intensified in Beijing in this century. For example, some eight dust storms impacted the city during the first quarter of 2006 alone.
Poor erosion controls allow dust storms to further degrade air quality. In the past, officials in Beijing have on occasion endeavored to actively promote rain showers in order to lessen the effects of the seasonal dust storms. The recent release of information concerning infrastructure improvements did not indicate whether or not some of the technology improvements may seek to bolster this effort.
A Lack of Transparency
Unfortunately, construction project planning in Beijing (and many other cities in the Peoples Republic of China) still reflects a lack of public disclosure. Projects do not receive the same degree of preliminary grassroots discussion surrounding urban renewal projects in most other developed nations (including the United States and the European Union). People interested in ascertaining the precise nature and the scope of urban renovation projects sometimes learn about changes only after construction projects commence.
Urban planners also lack the benefits offered by full transparency. They don’t conduct open hearings and solicit public input and criticism. Instead, planners endeavor to carry out urban planning authorized by centralized Communist Party officials. What will the approved 300 major construction projects hold for residents of Beijing during 2019? Apparently, non-Party members will simply have to wait to learn the full details of these renovations.