In Beijing: Miguel Paraz voted up an answer.
Two major themes underlie Beijing's contemporary issues: unsustainability and unpreparedness.
The major issues are not the reversible environmental concerns, but the fact that their is no sign or direction for sustainable solutions
to these problems. Let's review these concerns. Pollution, not just air:
Health and wealth: Why China needs cleaner cities
Air pollution has been covered many times and their are many views on how to solve this problem even on Quora:Beijing: What is Beijing going to do about its horribly disturbing pollution problem as of recent?What is the Chinese government doing about pollution in major cities like Beijing, if anything?
However, many people forget the rising water pollution and sewage issues
in Beijing. See Eutrophication
for a unique aspect of this issue. Most of the pollution seems to come from chemical and pharmaceutical enterprises. Untreated, these wastes can lead to high levels of carcinogens in the drinking water, which is not always purified. Corporate citizenship and stronger regulation and transparency would help curb this, but are unlikely in the near future. Furthermore, many numbers are "fudged" by city leaders to make their city appear cleaner to get more incentives from the government.All Wet and Nasty: Beijing's Polluted WaterwaysAll Five of Beijing’s Major Water Systems Seriously Polluted - The Epoch Times
We can hope that Beijing will be able to solve these problems soon like Mexico City
in the 1990's, Tokyo
in the 1980's, or even London's
on-again, off-again air problems since the 1950's.Massive migration and overpopulation:
Overpopulation vexes city planners
While Beijing can sustain its natural growth rate of 4%, its carrying capacity
is currently higher than is sustainable. As a metric, 500,000 people move into the Beijing area every year, with the population density having nearly doubled since 1999. This creates issues in gender balance, food supply and consumption, sanitation and lack of landfills, water shortages, increased housing prices, lower birth rates, higher death rates, and even (eventually) sunlight availability. As an example, Beijing boasts roughly only 10% of water availability per capita set by international standards [Source
]. Fortunately, Beijing is very spread out and not confined geographically, but resources will be moved around less and less efficiently. Beijing on the brink due to overpopulation - Beijing TodayBeijing's population tops 19.6 mln, migration key contributor to growth
Promoting a green economy, moving migrating populations towards nearby cities, efficient city planning, and much much could alleviate the problem. I've even heard the suggestion off moving China's capital
to alleviate pressure on Beijing.
Moving wholesale markets that attract millions of temporary vendors are also considered being moved to more remote areas of the city:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5...
Of course, the Hukou system
(户口) was meant to address the issues of mass-migration from the rural areas, but a discussion regarding the effectiveness, fairness, and reform issues are for another time.Property, prices, and disappearing culture:
China's Beijing tightens property controls to cool prices
Just search online "China property bubble" and choose a side to debate the economists on. What is guaranteed are the increasing housing prices in large cities, Beijing included. The skyline is rapidly growing, with parts of Beijing already looking like Panama City and Miami. While China's number of millionaires is growing, many of units in these tall apartment buildings cost more than $100,000 to purchase, well out of reach for the average Chinese citizen. Until middle class growth matures over the next decade, many of the apartments will likely sit empty.No Confidence in China Markets Inflates Housing BubbleMeet China's Housing Debt SlavesHutongs
(胡同) are slowly disappearing, while some in old Beijing are preserved in protected areas. While a carryover from dynastic stratification and urban planning, many non-affluent people still live and survive in them. They are being moved out of the way, often with little to none recompense, to make way for the high-rises. Rapid modernization and urbanization are also erasing historical sites and aspects of culture to some degree.
Source: Hutongs vs Skyscrapers
There is not a good solution to this issue; some see it as inevitability of economic progress. As a minimum, developers should fairly re-compensate hutong owners. The city should work with developers to identify whether the real estate market can handle expensive properties. Lastly, Beijing does not have the idea of well-connected suburbs
like in the US and other major cities. While suburbs come with their own issues including commuting, they alleviate housing prices, lessen overall pollution, and even create cultures of their own. Beijing is in the process of developing its Beijing Suburban Railway
with lines to Mentougou, Miyun, Pinggu, Shunyi, Huangcun, and Fangshan from the city center. They would then need to promote the hell out of it to get citizens okay with living 20-30 or more kilometers away from the downtown area and commuting in. This would be a sustainable solution in-line with many other megapolises.Security issues and mass evacuation:
Fortunately, Beijing has never face any major terrorism incidents, like the Mumbai attacks in 2008, London bombings in 2005, or heaven forbid, 9/11. Unfortunately, I can't find anything on counter-terrorism preparedness except for its version of a SWAT team, the Beijing Special Weapons and Tactics Unit
, starting just in 2005. As the economic and political importance of Beijing grows, complacency could result in a major threat to the city. The Alpha++ and many Alpha+ global cities
have had experienced major incidents, and Beijing is moving up this list. With greater global reach and controversial politics, Beijing is the face and heart of China, and will therefore be likely the first on some enemy's list to try and attack. While the actual incident may not kill many, the resulting panic could temporarily cripple the city.
The obvious solution would be better training, more security features, shared intelligence, redundancies in power and communication, and better response preparedness for rescuers and citizens. An event will
happen, but the scope and resulting effect will be lessened if Beijing prepares for the worst.
I also don't believe Beijing is prepared for a mass evacuation
due to the unlikely event of a natural disaster such as an earthquake, tropical cyclone, massive storm from the plains, flood, or drought. Better early warning systems, business continuity planning
, disaster recovery plan
, evacuation routes, and food storage would help in such an event.Preparing for disaster in BeijingFloods Force Beijing to Ask Questions on Disaster PreparednessBeijing, China - How Prevention Pays: Saving Lives and Minimizing Destruction in Natural Disasters
Even minor things like making roadway materials more permeable could alleviate flooding.
Other issues include Asian Dust
, feline overpopulation
, heat waves and freezing weather also impact the people of Beijing.
In summary, two major themes appears: sustainability and preparedness. I am not a Beijing government official so I do not know what they have planned or what is non-public information. Please let me know or comment if you have different information.
As Beijing matures into a modern city, its pollution issues will hopefully be curbed. Event preparedness instead of complacency costs time and money, but is always
worth it for mitigating the "known unknowns."See question on Quora