China's Sponge Cities: What Are They and How They Work

Could they be the possible solution to end flooding damage?
Deniz Yildiran

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Climate change is happening now and urbanization is escalating faster than ever. One of many inevitable results of these events' combination, cities and small towns are battling excess floods that are taking numerous lives. Urgent situations like these take instant solutions, and China is on its way to bring up one: Sponge cities. 

Out of 1 billion people in China896 million reside in cities and that requires even stronger infrastructure needs to be met, which in turn leaves very little space for the rain to be absorbed. The Chinese government plans to build 30 sponge cities around the country with the aim of urban areas absorbing and reusing at least 70% of rainwater by 2030. These squishy structures include storage tunnels, rain gardens, wetlands, and bioswales that'll help the cities soak up extra water. 

Wuhan city, for example, was affected by a dangerous flood in 2016 and it is now a good candidate for the project with its Xinyu Xie Park transformed into a space with rain storage structures. The city of Zhengzhou has spent over $80 million to build a drainage network that is 3,207 miles (5,162 km) long and 125 flooding points were removed in the city. 

Lastly, you might encounter the country's biggest sponge city if you stop by the Pudong district in Shanghai. In Linglang, the sponge park in question, central reservations work as rain gardens, allowing rain to be absorbed by soil and plants while water-absorbent bricks take the place of concrete sidewalks.