Groei en krimp in China

On 18 februari 2017, in stedelijkheid, wetenschap, by Zef Hemel

Gelezen in China City Planning Review nr 4 2016:


Mao Qizhi, Long Ying en Wu Kang onderzochten de recente veranderingen die optraden in de dichtheid van de bevolking in China aan de hand van twee bevolkingstellingen, die van 2000 en 2010. Ze publiceerden er onlangs over in China City Planning Review. In ‘Spatio-Temporal Changes of Population Density and Urbanization Pattern in China 2000-2010’ beschrijven ze een dynamiek van snel toenemende verdichting, zeg maar eentje van super-urbanisatie.  Townships met meer dan 4.000 mensen per vierkante kilometer telden in China in 2000 op tot in totaal 158,7 miljoen mensen; tien jaar later was hun aantal al gegroeid tot 230,9 miljoen. Townships met meer dan 1000 inwoners per kilometer telden in 2010 nog op tot 375,8 miljoen mensen; tien jaar later waren dat er al 516,2 miljoen. Vrijwel alle groei deed zich voor in en direct rond de allergrootste steden, en dan ook nog eens in de allerhoogste dichtheden. Townships met dichtheden van 1000 tot 2000 personen bleven daarentegen stabiel. In sommige delen van het land nam de bevolkingsdichtheid juist af.  De belangrijkste drie stedenclusters liggen in het oosten: de Pearl River Delta, de Yangtze River Delta en de Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei Region. De eerste twee hebben sterk de neiging om aaneen te groeien in een uniforme hoge dichtheid, dat geldt nog niet voor de derde.

In totaal onderscheidt het National New Urbanization Plan 2014-2020 van de Chinese centrale overheid, vastgesteld op 16 maart 2014, niet meer dan 21 stedenclusters. Hier moet de urbanisatie overwegend plaatsvinden. Dus naast de drie genoemde megasteden aan de oostkust gaat het om 18 ‘ontwikkelingsgebieden’. Met hun onderzoek stellen de auteurs vast dat Shandong schiereiland en Liaodong schiereiland in het oosten en Central Plains Economic Region en Chengdu-Chongqing region in het Midden-Westen inmiddels verdichte zones kennen die gunstig zijn voor metropoolvorming. De overige 14 ontwikkelingsgebieden zijn nog niet zover. Dichtheden blijven hier nog achter. “As for the other 10-20 key urbanization areas which are currently under discussions, the cultivation of market forces and the guidance of national planning are more necessary for orderly development to be important growth poles facilitating balanced spatial development in the future.” Hoe moeten we deze ontwikkeling begrijpen? Het totale oppervlak waarop 516,2 miljoen Chinezen leven beslaat niet meer dan 186.976 km2. Nederland, met zijn 17 miljoen inwoners, telt 41.500 km2. In China leven dus 516 miljoen mensen op een oppervlak dat niet groter is dan vier keer Nederland. Had men het Nederlandse verstedelijkingsmodel gevolgd, dan waren dat er niet meer dan 68 miljoen geweest. Nee, het Chinese model is veel stedelijker en ook veel duurzamer.

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Car-free Amsterdam

On 29 juni 2016, in duurzaamheid, infrastructuur, by Zef Hemel

Read in Climate Home of 23 June 2016:

Amsterdam is struggling with its crowdedness and popularity, people think the city centre is too busy. Of course they are right. They were never used to live in an urban condition. Politicians try to reduce tourism now, distribute activities, the mayor even proposes to move people to The Hague, Utrecht and Rotterdam. Great times for the Randstad Holland concept. Of course all this will not work. Better study Oslo, Norway, a city that has voted for banning cars from its city centre a few days ago. I read it on Climate Home last week. The Norwegian city centre should be car free by 2019, carbon emissions will be reduced by 50 per cent in 2020, and 95 per cent by 2030. “A key part of the plan is to prioritise pedestrians, bicyclists and public transport before car traffic, both when it comes to investments in infrastructure and the use of space,” Oslo’s vice mayor told Climate Home, the website of UN Environment. You see? Are the Norwegians far ahead of the Dutch, who are more and more lagging behind when it comes to sustainability and quality of life? No one in Amsterdam dares to propose a car free city centre by 2019. Too bold thinking. Biking on a massive scale apparently does not help.

Why Oslo of all cities? I remember a delegation of Oslo politicians and civil servants visiting Amsterdam not too long ago. I was struck by the car-friendly approach and the mild treatment of a car-based infrastructure of the Norwegian capital, with all its tunnels and parking garages, everything for free, a surprising fact which I could only explain by the fact that Norway is rich and a big exporter of gaz and oil. And yes, tunnels make it easy to drive through Oslo. But there was something changing in recent times. In 2015 more than ten tunnels in Oslo were being under repair. The authorities asked the citizens to bike more and make use of public transport. That was the beginning of a change. Now the city thinks that cars should be banned. What has happened? The city has a new left wing government. On 14 September 2015 the Labour party and the Green party were elected, they want to fight climate change. Oslo will become green. There is hope for Amsterdam. The Dutch capital could become lively again. Just get ban the cars from the monumental inner city.

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Unsustainable Urban Delta

On 22 april 2016, in duurzaamheid, economie, by Zef Hemel

Read in Het Parool of 15 April 2016:


Last week they forced me to move to another lecture hall at the University of Amsterdam. They told me the Dutch prime-minister Mr. Rutte was expected to come. He would give a lecture on ‘How the Netherlands is functioning’, and he needed my room. So I asked my students to move to the next hall and listen to my lecture on Global Cities over there. Afterwards I was wondering what Mr. Rutte had told his audience. In the newspaper next day I read that he had been speaking of the Netherlands in terms of a smart, innovative country we should be proud of. We’re one of the best in the world! Very stimulating indeed. But then he made a mistake. “It’s not a problem at all that the Netherlands lack megacities,” he lectured. See our country as one big colaborating city. When Amsterdam goes on a trade mission and sees opportunities for food or agriculture, the mayor invites the rector of the Wageningen University to join him. Then you could say: Wageningen is not Amsterdam. But on a world scale, Amsterdam is Wageningen-West.” Very funny. Mr. Rutte better had joined my students and learn more about Global Cities. (Photo: Mats van Soolingen)

Are the Netherlands one big collaborating city? Surely not. If the country is conceived as one big city, it would be one of the most polluted and least sustainable cities in the world. The ecological footprint of the Netherlands is one of the heaviest. If everyone were to adopt the Dutch lifestyle, the planet’s natural resources would be exhausted by 2030. But that’s no problem to our prime-minister. The same day he made his bold statement at the University of Amsterdam, he also launched the ‘Sustainable Urban Delta’-campaign at the Innovation Expo on the banks of the river IJ. Can you believe it? In terms of global hectares, the Dutch footprint measures 6.34 gha. This is twice the size of the Brazilian footprint and six times the size of the Indian ecological footprint. For the earth to support itself, scientists estimate that an ecological footprint of 1.8 gha is permissible. More than twenty years ago researchers reported that the Netherlands required a land mass fifteen times its current size to support of Dutch consumption levels of food and resources. So shame on us. Our prime-minister should aim for one big megacity of 17 million inhabitants, to begin with doubling the size of Amsterdam. That would make a difference, also in terms of innovation. But he will not. He’s only focused on boosting the economy, summoning his subjects to collaborate, without comprehending that megacities are true economic engines ànd far more sustainable than a conurbation of many small cities and villages. How sad.

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Flanders 2055

On 9 oktober 2015, in duurzaamheid, by Zef Hemel

Read in Het Parool of 3 October 2015:

He was the last speaker at the conference last week, in the House of Lords (Eerste Kamer) in The Hague, just after me. The journalist who interviewed him was in the audience. Jonathan Holslag (1981) is professor at the Free University of Brussels, he’s an expert in China. Like all the speakers that day he focused on the future of the Netherlands. His theme: geopolitics. He was very pessimistic, I remember. Two days later I read the interview with him in Het Parool, a Dutch newspaper. Pessimistic too. What I didn’t know is that he had just published a book on the future of Flanders, Belgium. In ‘Vlaanderen 2055’ he presented his dream of future Flanders. When I met him in The Hague we discussed his view on cities. According to him, megacities are horrible inventions, inhuman, not sustainable. He had read my blog, he told me. He wanted to discuss with me why the hell I wanted to double the size of Amsterdam. He simply could not understand. But interesting though it was. What did he say in the interview? “The only possibility is to return to a society where we can improve ourselves en live together on a human scale.”

Is his view utopian, romantic? Holslag: “I think we feel better in communities that are small, where buildings are not too big. There is a big risk that cosmopolitan people project their wishes and ideas on the rest of the population.” So yes, Holslag is romantic, anti-urban, like most European thinkers through history. But what he stands for is also unrealistic, simply not true. Holslag: “Innovation and scientific breakthroughs mostly come from university-cities that have no more than een few hundred thousand inhabitants. Campusses of Google and others look like villages, not megacities.” Nonsense of course. That holds only if your focus is narrow. Holslag is a European romantic, living in one of the most unsustainable economies of the world. Why? Because Belgium is one of the least densily built, one of the most suburbanised, oil-consuming countries, the country is a horrible scenario come true. Like the Netherlands, Belgium would better build a megacity now.

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