Monday, April 24, 2006
Isn't The View Spectacular ? (Travel Site Photo !)
Green & Clean Neighbourhood, Our Apartment Complex In Downtown Shanghai
From the open deck of the top floor Bar Rouge in downtown Shanghai facing the busy Huangpu River and the glittering Pudong skyline across, you realise, once again, the relentless pace with which China is growing. This breathtaking image combines everything, China's strategy, the vision and the hard work that will take it there. Except that there seems to be a greater than ever effort to balance growth and the environment.
Driving out of Pudong International Airport three days ago, I saw the new airport terminal coming up. As structures go, its futuristic, as scale, gigantic. And seems to stretch for ever. What you can see now only is the superstructure, which will be ready by 2010. By then, Pudong, along with this terminal, will have five runways and should handle 80 million passengers.
The older Hongquiao airport, which is closer to the center of Shanghai, itself will have two runways and will be able to handle 30 million passengers - just in case you wanted to compare Bombay's struggling old airport with one runway and the proposed new airport (for the last two decades ?)
Metro As Well
And yes, for the metro and train lovers, a new 13-line rail network with 512 km of lines is coming up. Yes, there is a larger objective, the 2010 World Expo. And there is another larger target, making Shanghai a global hub for business, trade and commerce. Looking out on to the ships and boats sailing purposefully past on the river, it looks like all this will happen.
Right where we are standing, braving chilly winds, a 2,000 yard stretch of the waterfront is being redeveloped. Also coming up somewhere here is a modern passenger ship terminal (so its not only about airports and fast trains) and of course the world's fastest commercial train service.
The high speed magnetic levitation line from Shanghai's Pudong airport will be extended to Hangzhou, 100 miles south. The mag lev runs only 30 km or so now and serves as an exhibit of sorts. Even so, its not often that you can travel at 430 kmph, stay on the ground and survive to tell the tale. Its a dizzying run to say the least.
Maintaining Balance ?
And for all the scorching construction and development, the city of Shanghai and its neighbourhood seems to trying to maintain a balance with the environment. Shanghai already has 4,000 skyscrapers, 2,000 more than New York. Another 1,000 are coming up. And yet, the apartment complexes, including the one we are staying are well laid out with greenery. And the air never seems polluted.
Even the Shanghai-Hangzhou expressway is lined with beautifully landscaped trees. In other industrial zones like Huzou, armies of workers are putting up thousands of transplanted trees along the main thoroughfares. Having noticed the same raw infrastructure to polish transition in cities like Shenzhen today, one thing is clear. Some lessons have been learnt somewhere. Almost quickly as the mistakes began piling up. The story of China is as much today of balance with the environment as it was of reckless growth.
As the music throbs inside the cozier confines of Bar Rouge (with a cover charge so ridiculous it can't be printed here) the brilliant lights illuminating the buildings around us begin to power down. Including at the space needle like TV tower across. Lights are out at 10.30 pm. But life on the 8th floor of Bund 18 is just begun stirring. Not a table can be had and the DJ seems to have just begun. Like the rest of the People's Republic of China, he's just warming up.