A rooftop garden on the Tencent Binhai towers in Shenzhen, China. © Theodore Kaye

Stories in China

Stormwater Management in China's Cities

By 2050, more than two-thirds of us will be living in cities. This is why The Nature Conservancy (TNC) is working to make cities healthier and more people-friendly. We are demonstrating how green infrastructure, such as planting trees in cities, can address urban challenges, including stormwater run-off, air pollution and heat islands, and also generate benefits for communities, for people’s health and for the economy.

Our Planting Healthy Air report found that an investment of just US$4 per resident in tree plantings in 245 cities could improve the health of millions of people.

Sponge City Learn more about the benefits of natural infrastructure in cities like Shenzhen.

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When urbanization occurs, it changes the surface of land from vegetation, soil and sand to impermeable pavements. The Chinese Ministry of Construction investigated 351 Chinese cities in 2010 and found that 65 percent of them had experienced flooding between 2008-2010. To make matters worse, the large volume of runoff water going into the sewage system has impaired many cities’ ability to treat waste water. Chinese cities are in desperate need of clean water.

The Chinese government began a nationwide stormwater management campaign in 2013. Thirty-two cities of various sizes were chosen across the country to be pilot “sponge cities.” Sponge cities are committed to using natural infrastructure for stormwater management. Shenzhen—a pioneer city in terms of economy, manufacturing, governance and its “smart city” status—is at the forefront to becoming more sustainable and liveable.

The Nature Conservancy is collaborating with Shenzhen city officials to get private and public sectors on board with natural infrastructure development and transform Shenzhen into an innovative, cost-effective “sponge city.” By planting more vegetation all around the city—on roofs, along sidewalks and in parks—we are helping the city become a sponge that retains and filters rainwater, sustaining a clean supply for expanding communities and making Shenzhen itself a safer and healthier place to live.

TNC has international experience with incentive programs and market-driven stormwater credit systems that we are implementing in Shenzhen and other Chinese cities to build a solid foundation of sustainable cities in China.