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GEO Year Book 2004/5  
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CHALLENGES FOR THE FUTURE

The year 2004 showed growing pressures on natural resources, as well as positive trends in conservation and cooperation. Government and civil society partnerships, together with regional agencies, have taken initiatives to promote environmental conservation in the region and these efforts need to be strengthened and multiplied.

Our Changing Environment
Beijing, China: Rapid urbanization

Beijing, the second largest city in China after Shanghai, is the cultural, political, and intellectual centre of the country, as well as a major industrial and commercial metropolis. By the beginning of 2004 the city’s population was over 14 million – three million more than a decade ago. The increase was mainly due to in-migration. Satellite towns have been constructed covering an area of more than 200 km2. Extremely rapid industrial and commercial development is putting pressure on the city’s historical and cultural landmarks, and causing significant loss of productive agricultural land. Like many other large cities, Beijing has also encountered serious pollution problems.

The Landsat images show the city’s growth trends and remarkable changes during the era of economic reforms since 1979. The first image shows the status of Beijing before the new economic reforms of 1979. The blue grey area (centre left) shows Beijing, including the Forbidden City. The green hills west of the city are covered with deciduous forests. A mixture of rice, winter wheat and vegetables, represented in a range of colours

depending upon the stage of their development, dominates the agricultural lands.

The second image shows how urban growth expanded from the city centre often along major transportation corridors and toward the airport. The suburbs grew rapidly as new construction of institutional, industrial, and residential buildings covered the landscape and resulted in the conversion of prime agricultural land to urban uses. The agricultural lands closest to the city centre that historically were dominated by vegetable and rice production are among the most threatened by commercial and residential development.

Sources: UNDESA 2000 and 1996, USGS 2001

Source: USGS 2001


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