Two urban villages in the southeast and northwest corners of Beijing－one that was known for its polluting low-end processing industries and the other for its poor living conditions－have been transformed into a 710,000-square-meter wetland park and a 290-hectare forest park. Beijing News comments:
The two parks, which are respectively close to Beijing's Yizhuang high-tech industrial zone and Zhongguancun, China's "silicon valley", are of considerable socioeconomic value.
The Beijing municipal government did not auction the two pieces of land after acquiring the land-use rights from local residents, as many had expected, and instead developed them into two large public parks. The forest park, one of the largest in the capital, is believed to directly benefit more than 200,000 residents living nearby.
The Beijing authorities now attach more importance to building city parks than skyscrapers. They plan to add 600 hectares of new urban green space and build 15 city parks this year, which will see the capital's vegetation coverage ratio increase to about 50 percent.
It is important for Beijing to shut down some of the low-end and polluting industries in order to shift its noncapital functions, as the central authorities require. To some extent, Beijing is repaying the "green debt" that it has accumulated over the past years when it exploited natural resources to facilitate its fast-paced urban development. It is also treating some of the urban diseases it contracted in the process, which drove away many of the talents it had made great efforts to attract.
Increasing the urban green coverage is part of Beijing's efforts to tackle air pollution as well as make the city a better place to live in, which in turn will deepen local residents' sense of belonging.