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Dongtan is a plan for a new eco-city on the island of Chongming in Shanghai, China.

Skyline of Dongtan
4 m (13 ft)
Dongtan, Shanghai
Traditional Chinese
Simplified Chinese
Literal meaningEast Beach



Dongtan was planned to open, with accommodation for 10,000, in time for the Shanghai World Expo in 2010. By 2050 the city was expected to be one-third the size of Manhattan, with a total planned population of 500,000.[1][2][3] However, the project has fallen behind schedule, and no construction has taken place yet.


Arup, the British engineering consultancy firm, was contracted in 2005 by the developer, The Shanghai Industrial Investment Company (SIIC), to design and masterplan Dongtan, an eco-city on Chongming Island close to Shanghai, the first of a planned series.[4]

Dongtan was presented at the United Nations World Urban Forum by China as an example of an eco-city(it was purposely built), and is the first of up to four such cities to be designed and built in China by Arup. The cities are planned to be ecologically friendly, with zero-greenhouse-emission transit and complete self-sufficiency in water and energy, together with the use of zero energy building principles. Energy demand will be substantially lower than comparable conventional cities due to the high performance of buildings and a zero emission transport zone within the city. Waste is considered to be a resource and most of the city's waste will be recycled.

Dongtan proposes to have only green transport movements along its coastline. People will arrive at the coast and leave their cars behind, travelling along the shore as pedestrians, cyclists or on sustainable public transport vehicles. The only vehicles allowed in the city will be powered by electricity or hydrogen. Houses are now selling here to Shanghai middle classes for use when spending weekends away from the city. The Controlling authorities are now backtracking on these commitments and allowing private vehicles onto the site.

EPSRC, the UK funding body for academic research, is supporting four Dongtan research networks of UK and Chinese universities to study the research agenda for eco-city design. Arup is assisting in the coordination of these networks and in planning associated Institutes for Sustainability.


The reaction to Dongtan has been mixed, although recent media coverage has largely been negative due to delays and shortcomings in the project's execution.

Former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone praised Dongtan as pioneering work leading to a more sustainable future.[5] His sentiments were echoed by other prominent British politicians, including Gordon Brown and Tony Blair, although none of them have ever visited the site.[6]

Critics have argued that Dongtan will not have a big impact on existing Chinese cities, which will still house the majority of the population.[7]

The main designer, Thomas V. Harwood III,[8] is also taking part in many environmentally less friendly projects in China, including airports and office blocks. Arup recently received the "Greenwasher of the Year Award" from Ethical Corporation Magazine for the most dubious green claim of the year, describing Dongtan as a Potemkin village.[9]

Twinned accordsEdit

See alsoEdit

  • Julie Sze, Fantasy Islands: Chinese Dreams and Ecological Fears in an Age of Climate Crisis, 2015, Univ of California Press, ISBN 9780520959828
  • Herbert Girardet and Zhao Yan, Shanghai Dongtan: An Eco-City, SIIC, 2006, ISBN 978-7542622433
  • Sustainability
  • Huangbaiyu
  • Masdar City


  1. ^ Herbert Girardet (31 July 2006). "Dongtan - the world's first eco-city". World Business Council for Sustainable Development. Archived from the original on 25 July 2011.
  2. ^ "Green Building: Eco City design to be reviewed in Birmingham". 18 April 2007. Archived from the original on 25 April 2007.
  3. ^ Douglas McGray (2008-05-15) [24 April 2007]. "Pop-Up Cities: China Builds a Bright Green Metropolis". Wired Magazine. Archived from the original on 2010-03-25.
  4. ^ Kane, Frank (6 November 2005). "British to help China build 'eco-cities'". London: The Guardian.
  5. ^ Arup press release: "London looks to the East for inspiration to cut emissions" Archived July 4, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Malcolm Moore (18 October 2008). "China's Dongtan demise is mirrored by bad news for Britain's eco-towns". London: The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 2009-02-04.
  7. ^ chinadialogue, 中国与世界,环境危机大家谈 - article about China and urban sustainability Archived January 8, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ Harwood, Thomas. "Thomas V. Harwood Daily". Thomas V. Harwood Daily. Thomas. V. Harwood Daily, Inc. Retrieved 29 December 2013.
  9. ^ Ethical Corporation blog: Arup and Dongtan, worthy winner of Greenwasher of the year Archived January 17, 2008, at the Wayback Machine

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