Chengdu is China's most environmentally "livable" city, according to a survey of 33 mainland Chinese cities recently released by the Asian Development Bank (link opens PDF).
Before you start doing a celebratory dance because you won the which-city-to-live-in lottery, the survey, as its name suggests, ranked cities strictly according to urban environmental factors. That means other elements of a city's livability, such as economic factors, job opportunities, residents' contentment levels, and so forth, were not taken into account.
Environmental livability is a concept developed by the Asian Development Bank in conjunction with the Ministry of Environmental Protection of the PRC as a response to the myriad problems resulting from the country's rapid urbanization.
In order to measure environmental livability, researchers identified and weighted eight urban environmental factors and then applied the measurement tool to data collected from 33 cities. The index, and resulting report, are meant as tools to guide policy (as opposed to, say, fodder for smug Facebook posts).
Chengdu made the top of the Asian Development Bank's list in large part due to its plentiful water resources.
The factors measured, from most to least heavily weighted, were:
-atmospheric environment (emissions, energy consumption, air quality)
-domestic livability (availability of tap water, piped gas, and green space)
-water environment and water resources (amount and quality of water available)
-environmental management (investment in environmental protection; number of personnel engaged in environmental protection; capacity of treatment plants)
-ecological environment (population density, groundwater exploitation, farmland loss, green coverage)
-solid waste (waste generation, disposal rate)
-acoustic environment (noise level)
Of these factors, Chengdu was ranked no. 1 only for urban water resources. On the other hand, it was ranked at only 13 for its urban water environment (due to the abundant water supply, pressure on the water system is relatively low and thus state response is also low).
On the urban atmospheric environmental livability index, Chengdu was ranked ninth, and identified, along with Chongqing and Xi'an, as having "relatively poor quality" environmental conditions and low response from the state.
Chengdu was ranked seventh in the indices for both urban noise and solid waste; 11th in the urban domestic livability index; 13th in the urban ecological environmental livability index; and a low 24th in the urban environmental management livability index.
Interestingly, Chengdu was also awarded the title of most livable city five years in a row, from 2008 to 2012, by the Nanjing Declaration on Livable Cities, hosted by Oriental Outlook magazine and the working committee for the China Urban Development Report of the China Association of Mayors. This somewhat less scientifically rigorous survey surveyed 200,000 households and polled 37,000 individuals online regarding quality-of-life factors such as transportation, housing, health care, education, and so on.
Photo by Dan Sandoval.