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City may grow beyond capacity within 3 years
08.16.2012

    Shanghai’s downtown has grown so crowded that the current population density is up to fourfold that of its foreign counterparts, and the city may be running out of resources to support its swelling population in three years, a recent investigation by the city’s top advisory board says.

    Currently, in each square kilometer of land in downtown Shanghai, there are 16,828 people. That’s about 2.4 times the numbers of Tokyo, 3.5 times of London and 4.8 times of Paris, the report found.

    That means half the city’s population is inside central districts that constitute only 10 percent of the city’s total land. Shanghai’s citywide population density is now 9,589 people per square kilometer, much higher than that of the three foreign counterpart cities.

    Some government advisors think that if the city’s population is better allocated and more land is used to its potential, the manageable population limit could be 25 to 28 million. But the city’s population is expected to reach or surpass that in three years, given current trends.

    The latest national census showed Shanghai’s population hit more than 23 million by 2010. The city took in 630,000 more residents each year of the prior decade.

    The Shanghai Political Consultative Conference, the city’s top political advisory body, suggested Shanghai government strictly control the number of new high-density housing projects in its central districts while raising social service standards in the city’s suburbs.

    Despite years of development efforts in the outlying areas, many suburban towns fail to lure downtowners as the government had planned mainly because of shortfalls in quality public services such as transit, hospitals and schools.

    “The government should carry out effective methods to ease population swelling especially in downtown areas.

    “I am willing to move to the suburbs so long as authorities make sure we have convenient daily traffic means and a sound living environment,” said 25-year-old local worker Zeng Fanwei.

    But a 42-year-old local man surnamed Hu said he’s unwilling to move despite crowding downtown. Hu said downtown districts still have better public services.

    Advisors also are concerned about the possibility of shortages of environmental resources.

    Shanghai is trying to improve and expand its water resources to make sure that by the end of 2015, the city’s tap water supply will support 26 million people.

    But if the population hits 30 million or more, the city would run short of tap water by at least 2 million tons each day, which is equal to 11 percent of the city’s estimated full potential water supply, said Xu Xuehong, deputy director with the Taihu Lake Water Resources Protection Bureau, at a meeting this week.