When Zhang Shuya, 34, from Hefei, Anhui province learned that the central government had issued a guideline on ensuring safe urban development, she said that was the time she fully realized the importance of urban safety.
A week ago, Hefei was hit by snowfall, the most severe in almost a decade, disrupting transportation and facilities.
“We have not had such heavy snow in more than 10 years and we were … just totally unprepared for it. I think it would be much better if both local governments and residents were more prepared and better facilities were put in place,” she said.
On Jan 7, a guideline was unveiled to push for the safe development of cities, announcing that China will continuously push forward the formation of a systematic and modernized mechanism to ensure urban safety, and step up building safe cities on the foundation of central districts leading the development of neighboring areas and benefiting residents.
It was made clear that China aims to achieve “noticeable progress” in safe urban development, and create a number of demonstration cities in line with the objective of becoming a moderately prosperous society in all respects by the year 2020. By 2035, the country should put in place an improved system for safe urban development and create safe cities that are in line with the requirements for basically realizing socialist modernization, it added.
The guideline was issued by the general offices of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the State Council, China’s Cabinet.
Liu Tiemin, a researcher at the China Academy of Safety Science and Technology, said the guideline was issued against the backdrop of robust progress in urbanization and urban facilities in the past decade, as well as the fact that major accidents in cities have caused casualties and property loss over the last several years.
“A key highlight of the new guideline is that it has put great emphasis on safe urban living instead of stressing production safety only,” he said.
Liu believes accidents in urban areas in the past five years, including fires in residential areas, explosions, as well as those caused by unexpected severe weather, are all problems regarding safe urban environments. He pointed out many such accidents took place in economic development zones in cities, reflecting that the problem that while urbanization is rapid, attention and efforts in ensuring urban safety are lagging.
“In the past we tended to give more emphasis to production safety, the definition of which is only limited to industrial production sites, operations and operators. But there were limited policies and documents that stressed safety in urban areas,” he said.
Citing the deadly stampede in Shanghai on Dec 31, 2014, where more than 30 lives were lost, and some 49 people suffered injuries after about 300,000 people gathered for New Year celebration, Liu said accidents often happened in economically developed cities in recent years.
He said the new guideline aims to make city development in China “more resilient”.
“The new guideline requires clear risk control when designing a new area or a city. For example, in the reconstruction work of villages in a city, residential areas must be isolated from industrial parks,” Liu pointed out. “This will give room for an area’s development in the long term.”
He expects that creating a number of demonstration cities in safe urban development by 2020, as a goal raised in the new guideline, will have a model effect across the country for safe urban developments.
At the same time, he spoke highly of two items stressed in the new guideline: the idea and culture of a safe urban area, and building safe model cities.
“The notion of safe urban areas is stressed many times in the guideline. This means the government will guide all people, not only those working on production sites, because as urbanization moves on, people need to learn fully about city facilities, as well as self-protection when accidents occur,” he said.
The guideline made clear that the government must uphold the vision of making development people-centered and should never seek development at the cost of safety.
Sun Jianping, professor at the Institute for Urban Risk Management at Tongji University in Shanghai, said while risks include both traditional and nontraditional ones, both Beijing and Shanghai, the two largest municipalities in China, already stressed designing for the 2016-35 period.
“For example, when the guideline for the overall urban plan for Shanghai (2017-35) was released by the State Council last December, it was made clear that the goal is to build Shanghai into a city that is healthy, safe and resilient,” Sun said.