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People's Republic of China Water Action: Suzhou Creek’s Ecological Comeback

People's Republic of China Water Action: Suzhou Creek’s Ecological Comeback

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Published by: adbwaterforall on Oct 15, 2012
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Country water actions are stories that showcase water reforms undertaken by individuals,communities, organizations, and governments in Asia-Pacific countries and elsewhere.
Country Water ActionsPeople's Republic of China: Suzhou Creek’s Ecological Comeback
October 2010
 Shanghai ’s Suzhou Creek breathes almost normally thesedays, thanks to the efforts of the city government andpeople of Shanghai. The once murky and fetid river hasbeen transformed into an ecological wonder.
Shanghai’sgovernmentembarked on thehuge task of cleaningSuzhouCreek through theADB-financedSuzhou CreekRehabilitationProject. The citygovernment tackledthe pollutionproblems head-on with bold moves to restore the river’soriginal ecology.The most difficult task proved to be reducing and managingsewage dumped daily into the river and its adjoining canals.A pipe-system now collects wastewater which is thentransported and processed at a state-of-the-art watertreatment plant. Once treated, the water is discharged backinto the river to flush out more filth. This process is “anessential, basic measure,” says Xu Zuo Zheng, GeneralManager of the Shanghai Suzhou Creek RehabilitationConstruction Company, as this prevents sewage fromentering the river. Other strategies employed by the projectincluded:Constructing control gates to block waste from sidecanals and increase water flowShutting down or relocating polluting factories thatcould not treat their own wastePumping oxygen into the river to improve waterquality using special boatsTransforming the embankments into pleasantresidential neighborhoods and ecological parks
The 53 kilometers of the Suzhou Creek running throughShanghai served as convenient sewer for the city as it grewto become one of the world’s largest mega-cities and theengine of PRC’s dynamic economy.Hundreds of barges that transport goods and solid wasteout of the city once plied this waterway. Wharves along theriver served as loading docks, and became one of thesources of the river’s foul smell. Large amounts of dischargeof untreated industrial and municipal wastewater were alsodumped in the river's many canals. Algae choked itssurface. The 1970s and 1980s saw the worst sordid state of SuzhouCreek as it turned black and putrid. Makeshift houses linedthe riverbanks and greenery could barely grow. It was notuntil 1999 that changes in the river’s state becameapparent. Today, with the Suzhou Creek RehabilitationProject, Suzhou Creek’s stench is gone and it no longerflows black.
With the daunting task of resuscitating the river finallyin full swing, thebeautification of theriverbanks began. The oldwharves and houses weredismantled and acomprehensive resettlementplan ensured the relocationof 7,700 people affected bythe rehabilitation project.Employment opportunitieswere opened to almost4,000 skilled and unskilledworkers.Trees and flowering busheswere planted. Promenadeswere put in place, as well as a new museum about thehistory of Suzhou Creek to increase environmentalawareness among Shanghai citizens. Residents now enjoythe river and some even do their early morning exercisesalong the banks.But what the city government boasts of most proudly is thenew Jing’an solid waste transfer station, which takes theplace of the unsightly barges that once collected urbantrash. Built in Jing’an District in the heart of Shanghai, thegarbage transfer station is of the best international designand could easily be mistaken for any slick, modern, urbanbuilding. It does not emit foul odors and most people livingnear it did not even know it was a garbage station. Somethought it was a new park at the intersection. 

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