SHANGHAI — To the residents of China’s most crowded and populous city, the air on nearby Chongming Island has an unfamiliar quality: It’s fresh.About an hour’s ferry ride from the edge of the city, the island’s farms and fishing villages are a world apart from the pollution that pervades modern life in China — and increasingly spills out beyond it.A steady breeze rustles through lush green marsh grass, the only sound besides the chirping of migrating birds at the mouth of the Yangtze River. Fields of watermelon and cabbage stretch for miles.”It’s the last piece of undeveloped land in Shanghai,” said Yan Yang, who grew up in this city before going to work for Seattle architecture firm Callison. “It’s a treasure.”
The island may be lodged in the past, but it soon could leapfrog into the future. It’s here that Shanghai developers plan to build what they say will be the world’s first sustainable “eco-city” on a plot three-fourths the size of Manhattan.
Called Dongtan, or East Beach, the project attempts to channel China’s voracious demand for housing and energy into a radical new model: a city that eventually supports half a million residents, recycles almost all of its waste, produces its electricity from wind turbines, solar panels and biofuel, and ferries people around in hydrogen fuel-cell buses and solar-powered water taxis. Construction is set to start next year, and city planners hope to complete the first phase by 2010, when visitors flock to Shanghai for the World Expo.
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[Read up on Dongtan]