The emerging Asia-Pacific urban future

When heavy rains come in May, residents of neighbourhoods surrounding Wuhan’s Garden Expo in China no longer brace themselves for overflowing sewage as they had done in the days when this 46-hectare site formed the Jinkou landfill, Asia’s largest garbage dump. After a three-year remediation programme, the trash heap, the methane emissions of which regularly caught on fire, had been transformed so that it opened to host the 10th China International Garden Expo in September 2015. This urban ecological restoration project converted a once toxic part of Wuhan, a city of 11 million people, into an award-winning green oasis that creates public space, improves air quality, provides habitat for native wildlife, adapts to climate change and operates on a sustainable financing model (Xinhuanet, 2018; C40 Cities, 2016).1 Employing “sponge city” principles, the Garden Expo site can absorb Wuhan’s subtropical monsoon rainfall (Jing, 2019). According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), monsoon rainfalls are expected to become more intense as climate change creates more extreme weather events (Stocker and others, 2013). While the project cost $690 million, the improvements benefit 400,000 residents in the park’s immediate surroundings, and the municipal government collects revenue from such events as wedding rentals that help recoup the city’s investment.

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