Solving Cities

China expanding its cities by building massive artificial islands

China expanding its cities by building massive artificial islands

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When the chain of artificial islands in Longkou Bay is compete, they will comprise an area as big as Manhattan from its southern tip all the way to Central Park, but with vastly more ocean-front property

In 2014, when the chain of artificial islands in Longkou Bay is compete, they will comprise an area as big as Manhattan from its southern tip all the way to Central Park, but with vastly more ocean-front property, suitable for ports as well as seaside homes.

It will take 300 million cubic meters of earth and stone hauled from a nearby hill to build the islands, or enough material to fill the interior of the Empire State Building 30 times.

And the entire operation will be massively profitable for the cash-strapped local government, which, like all local governments, makes around forty percent of its revenues from the sale of land.

"Sea-filling costs about 300 yuan per square meter," [said a real estate executive from Yantai.] "Since seaside homes sell for more than 10,000 yuan per square meter, the profit margin is huge."

Building artificial islands is a way for cities in China to expand without destroying farmland, which is protected by the central government. It's also a way to skirt issues that normally come with land reclamation, such as compensating homeowners and demolishing existing buildings.

The effects on the environment are unclear, in part because this portion of China's coast is already so polluted that scientists don't really know how much sea life remains to be wrecked. Changes in ocean currents are a possibility, of course, and in the long term, reclaimed land is not as likely to hold up in the face of rising sea levels.

Of course, reclaiming land has been done for centuries in areas where population density is highest. Mahattan Island, for example, has been significantly expanded by land reclamation, as this interactive map demonstrates.

"By the American Revolution, the city's population had grown to 30,000, and land had become scarce and cramped in the city center. That's when the city began to sell 'water lots', wherein entrepreneurs would seek to use landfill to create additional lots for use."

The primary difference in China is, as usual, scale.

via Caixin online

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Christopher Mims

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Christopher Mims has written for Scientific American, WIRED, Popular Science, Fast Company, Good, Discover, Slate, Technology Review, Nature and the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University. Formerly, he was an editor at Scientific American, Grist and Seed. He is based in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure