Chongming Island wetlands – photo by Bert van Dijk (source: Flickr Creative Commons)

A recent article in the Economist highlights concerns over the development of Chongming Island, a bucolic, green oasis within China’s Shanghai municipality. Chongming is the largest alluvial island in the world and features large wetlands, which are popular with migratory birds – and now tourists, thanks to a new bridge and tunnel linking the island with the mainland.

‘In the bridge’s first two weeks, Chongming received more than 600,000 visitors—more than half its annual total. Local media reported that eighty thousand people visited one of its wetland reserves in a single day. They scared away the birds and dumped loads of litter; too few toilets left many to urinate by the roadsides.’

–The Economist

It may seem amazing that Chongming Island has so far avoided the massive industrialization, development and urbanization that are so characteristic of nearby Shanghai, the iconic symbol of modern China. But Chongming’s development is partly based on its non-development, combined with its proximity to Shanghai. It is a natural and rustic sanctuary now easily accessible to urban tourists in need of an unspoiled green space. Once dependent on ferries across the Yangzi, eco-tourism is now booming with the construction of hotels, a convention center and an ‘eco-town’ on the way. Old factories are also being shut down, adding to the island’s environmental cache. Plans for theme parks on Chongming may do the contrary, however.

The green, pastoral island of Chongming is not to be confused with the new, highly industrialized megalopolis of Chongqing in central China. Chongqing municipality is home to over 30 million people. The city is sometimes referred to as the largest in the world and often as the fastest growing, despite its relative anonymity outside of China. Though there are efforts to transform Chongqing into a low-carbon city, its recent history has been characterized by rapid, headlong development with poor workers and farmers as casualties. Read more about Chongqing in this article from the Channel 4 news series ‘Unreported World’. Those who live within the UK can also view an accompanying video report. Alternately, another video report entitled ‘Chongqing: Invisible City – China’ can be seen on youtube courtesy of Journeyman Pictures.

Additional resources:

Chongming Eco-Community Project

The Guardian – A greener world from the ground up: Local co-operation, such as that between Yorkshire and Chongqing in China, can help to tackle climate change globally