Building livable cities to promote gross national happiness

14:58, September 29, 2010      

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Almost five months have elapsed since Shanghai's World Expo, a six-month event themed on "Better City, Better Life", kicked off on May 1. Exhibitors from around the world depict and display the urban life in their past and years ahead with numerous vivid and diverse exhibitions,which have filled visitors with a wealth of inspiration.

On the issue of how to achieve the "Better City, Better Life", people are mulling meticulously and carrying ideas into depth. An upcoming Hangzhou forum to theme on "harmonious and livable city life" has drawn a large number of experts, scholars, officials and entrepreneurs worldwide to explore ideas for the development of most suitable cities for living.

Cities in the modern sense have come to the fore along with the prosperity of booming industries and businesses. With the acceleration of urbanization process in so many countries over recent years, famers leave the farmland they have tilled for generations and flocked to new industrial and commerce centers, and so the cities have achieved unprecedented physical growth.

Urban population in China is expected to equal the rural population in the middle of the 12th Five-Year Plan period from 2011 to 2015, according to predictions made in "The 2010 Blue Book" of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS); it would ensure that both urban and rural areas get equal access. This poses an extremely in-depth change for China, a traditional agriculture nation. In a sense, only with the emergence of harmonious cities, can we have a harmonious country and, only with cities built suitable for living, can our people truly live in comfort and happiness.

Of course, urban development does not always conform to people's expectations. In order to have better and improved livelihoods and get more opportunities in life, people would concentrate into urban areas, as city dwellers often enjoy much benefit. In the meanwhile, they are also harassed by "headache" problems known as "urban diseases", namely, traffic congestions, air pollution, acute water shortage, reduced green coverage, and growing housing shortages, etc. However, people are longing anxiously for, among others, a more natural space, a much greener environment, more low-carbon development models, and more livable cities with harmonious development, which have become the eager expectations of urbanities in more and more cities.

Livable cities are concerned with the "human beings" instead of "objects" and, in other words, they focus on people or are the people-oriented. Nevertheless, how to find China's road for urban development in line with the specific national conditions remains a great challenge facing Chinese cities. Shows of classic cases of many cities and venues at the Expo site broaden our horizon, increase our knowledge and deepen our awareness for scientific development in urban areas.

By viewing or examining a wide range of Chinese and foreign cities at the Shanghai Expo, we have come to recognize an urgent need for regional cooperation in the course of building livable cities, for promoting the development and growth of urban agglomerations and stepping up joint efforts to better the environment, optimize the economic structure and save or optimize resources so as to ensure sustainable development.

Livable cities need a reinforced and efficient social support system, so that the urban traffic, public safety and energy recycling networks will be turned more scientific and viable, and social security setups will expand or improve, and public resources will be allotted more rationally in a bid to upgrade the mitigation levels for urban disasters and create a harmonious development of the space for urban dwellers.

On top of all this, livable cities need a fair and just humane environment with plentiful and diverse cultural enjoyment. Only by means of implementing the concept of "putting people first" and developing cities in compliance with the people's desires and sentiments, will it be possible for us to ultimately attain the harmony and make the cities suitable for living.

The ongoing Shanghai World Expo has aroused or stimulated our wisdom and enthusiasm for living a much better life, which will also translate into people's conscious actions, and this is the very essence of what we call "Building Livable Cities and Promoting Gross National Happiness."

By People's Daily Commentator and translated by PD Online


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