Gan Lin, Wen Hua, Martin Li
MALMO in Sweden has come a long way in environmental development since its days as a small industrial town. In 2009, the city received an award from the United States for being among the most livable in Europe.
A shift in economic direction
Malmo’s economy used to be based on ship building and construction. However, when Asia began to replace Europe as the world’s manufacturing hub, the city saw a recession in which ship yards were closed down.
“When I became mayor in 1994, the city was in urgent need of an economic transformation.
There were three options: focus on tourism, rejuvenate heavy industry, or develop new industries,” recalled the city’s mayor, Ilmar Reepalu.
Reepalu made it his first priority to make Malmo an appealing place to live by striving to be the most environmentally friendly city in Sweden.
So he chose new industries.
His plan was vindicated by a U.N. convention on climate change, which took effect March 21, 1994.
However, making the economic transition was not painless.
“When renovating the west port area of Malmo, we organized a special team to treat 10,000 tons of soil which had been polluted severely by industrial waste,” said the mayor.
In the meantime, the city government signed agreements with developers, requiring each new building in the area to be energy-efficient.
“Initially, we met with a lot of skepticism. However, when a new urban area was completed, people started seeing its benefits. The area used renewable energy. Electricity was supplied by a wind power plant and heating came from solar energy. Besides, more than 95 percent of the garbage in the area can either be recycled or transformed into biological gas,” said Reepalu.
The success of the port area renovation triggered a wave of urban reconstruction in Malmo, which involved businesses in the fields of clean energy, high-tech, media and service industries.
“Thanks to the enthusiasm of the public, we gradually completed the transformation and upgrading,” said the mayor.
Industrial development vs.
“Industrial development and environmental protection need not be mutually exclusive. It is achievable to build an industrial area with little pollution and low emissions by different means,” said Reepalu.
Malmo has been using advanced water recycling technology to reduce the use of fresh water in industrial development. The recycling technology is also used to reduce energy consumption.
“Heavy industries such as steel and iron consume a lot of electricity. The recycling measures introduced in Malmo have effectively reduced their consumption,” said Reepalu.
“However, I would like to emphasize that both Malmo and Shenzhen face a severe shortage of land, so I hope Shenzhen will not develop industry on its best land,” said the mayor.
Committed to environmental protection, the mayor makes the one-hour commute to work by bicycle every day.
“I think more journeys of under 5 kilometers should be made by bicycle,” said Reepalu.
Malmo has more than 425 kilometers of cycling tracks, which has proven to be an effective way of encouraging people to seek alternatives to driving. Over 40 percent of the city’s population commutes by bicycle.
“I suggest that Shenzhen follow in our footsteps and discourage people from using cars. In the 1950s, it was the norm in Sweden to dream of owning a private car, and many people saved enough money to realize this dream. However, it later became obvious that cars were not good for the environment, with areas that once boasted attractive natural scenery being turned into car parks,” said Reepalu.
Cooperation with Shenzhen
“One of the many areas in which Malmo and Shenzhen can cooperate is in promoting the use of clean energy in urban transit systems. Malmo is researching and promoting transportation tools using clean energy. Shenzhen has also been successful in this field so we look forward to cooperating,” said the mayor.
The two cities are also expected to cooperate in recycling. “In Sweden, each resident produces an average 500 tons of waste each year, around 98 percent of which is recycled. The rest is either buried or burnt. Almost half of the buses in Malmo are powered by sewer gas,” said Reepalu. Reepalu said he is delighted to see an increasing awareness of environment protection among young people in both Malmo and Shenzhen.
Suggestions to SZ
Reepalu has given suggestions on Shenzhen’s industrial transformation. “It is important to cultivate and maintain talent,” said the mayor.
Malmo University was established in 1998. It offers courses such as urban environment. Each year between 7,000 and 8,000 graduates who majored in clean energy, clean technology and environment protection technology enter the city’s work force.
In addition, Shenzhen should support the development of enterprises involved in environmentally-friendly technology, according to Reepalu. “Shenzhen should also control immigration. Malmo’s environment used to face much pressure from a heavy influx of people,” said the mayor.
Ilmar Reepalu took office in 1994 and has been dedicated to responding to climate change and pushing forward urban transformation. In 2009, Reepalu claimed a U.N. award in recognition of his contribution to environmental protection, the same year Malmo was selected by the U.N. as the most exemplary city in Sweden in terms of green development.
City of Malmo
Malmo is the third largest city in Sweden and it has a large population of migrants. Located in southern Sweden and on the east coast of the Oresund Strait, Malmo is connected with Danish capital Copenhagen by train and ferry services.
The city is an important trade center in Sweden. There are many well-known trade and transport companies in the city, which import from all over the world and export to north Europe. Malmo also boasts world-class air, railway, road and sea transportation.