This innovative relocation housing policy helped Suzhou restore the ecological site of Stone Lake and improve the quality of the environment, while also ensuring that the displaced rural farmers meet both their housing and income needs.
||Urban regeneration/ environmental projects
Schematic map of Stone Lake District (in red) with its larger surroundings © Suzhou
- The Stone Lake District project is located in the southwest region of Suzhou.
- A main component of ‘four green elements’ designated in the 1986 Suzhou City Master Plan.
- Regarded as a flagship project with the goals of improving environmental quality of the city under the 2003 Master Plan.
- Envisioned as a city country park characterised with traditional Chinese Garden elements and historical features, catering to residents and visitors.
- Scope includes ecological restoration, heritage protection, infrastructure provision, landscaping, attraction design and site construction.
Key issues faced before the implementation of the project
- Environmental pollution under the pressure of rapid economic development.
- Severe damage to ecology and natural environment caused by quarrying and cemetery construction. Total impervious cemetery grounds reached 245 ha at one point.
- Pig farming activities and excessive fish farming critically deteriorated water quality of Stone Lake and diminished water surface area.
- Over-clustering of industrial enterprises and crowding of squatter settlements adversely impacted the surrounding environment.
Leadership and governance
- The city initiated a series of planning actions focused on development and transformation to address issues due to rapid industrialisation and urbanisation, culminating in the 2003 Master Plan.
- Stone Lake District is a key project in the Master Plan for ecological protection and improvement.
- An efficient organisational structure is established, with the project development team led by the municipal government serving as headquarters and eliminating typical administrative restrictions. This helped to optimise resource allocation and realise planning goals.
- Additional investments such as ‘Tiger Hill Front Entrance Comprehensive Renovation Project’ and ‘Jianfengzhou Park Project’ as fixed assets helped to increase the capital required for the project.
Creativity and innovation
1-for-3 housing policy © Suzhou
- In addition to restoring and improving the quality of the natural waterbody, the number of residents is controlled within the scenic site.
- Rural farmers were relocated to urban areas as the pig farming activities were contaminating the existing lake.
- Under an innovative ‘1-for-3’ relocation housing policy, farmers were offered three units of urban housing in exchange of their one unit of farm residence, where they could use the first unit for themselves, the second for family members, and the third for rental income.
- The success of the policy facilitated the resettlement in a short span of just four months.
- As a result, the city was able to protect and make their water-rich landscape more accessible.
Impacts of the project
>200ha of enclosed aquaculture facilities on lake surface dismantled
>40ha of land freed up with relocation of factories
>30,000 trees planted in 11,000ha of green space
600,000 visitors within 4 months of opening
Icons made by Good Ware from www.flaticon.com
- More than 200 hectares of enclosed aquaculture facilities on the lake surface are dismantled, while land designated for cemeteries is reduced. This expanded the lake surface area and in turn improved the water quality and ecological environment.
- Increase in green and public spaces significantly enhanced the environment: over 30,000 trees planted in 11,000 hectares of land, forming a 6.6 kilometres of scenery belt around the lake.
- Historic attractions such as Xingchun Bridge, Zhiping Temple, Lanka Tower Yard, Fishing Garden and Yue City Ruins are preserved and restored, elevating the historic and cultural characteristics of the city.
- Infrastructural improvements include the restoration of the 5.7-kilometre Wuyue Road, construction of over 10 kilometres of new scenic parkway and more than 20 scenic bridges, and restoration of 8 kilometres of embankment.
- The district hosted nearly 600,000 visitors within four months of its opening, becoming a popular destination. It is regarded as a demonstration area to showcase good management of innovation, development, and protection and utilisation of resources.
Stone Lake District © kevinxp © 123rf.com
- A commitment to investing in infrastructure as a way of planning for the future can help the city realise its twin goals of achieving economic growth while improving its quality of life.
- It is important to prioritise the planning of the project so as to enhance the co-existence of the ecological site with its surrounding urban communities. For example, prioritisation of ecological protection, planning of facilities according to suitable functions and construction of buildings in compliance with green building standards can help to minimise environmental impacts. O