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  • The Chinese government is building water-absorbent projects in 30 cities as part of its “sponge city initiative.”
  • To date, the cities have received more than $12 billion for sponge projects.
  • The effort faces several challenges, including China’s burgeoning municipal debt crisis and its current urban planning system.

Like many places around the world, Chinese cities are considering ways to combat flooding in the face of climate change. Increased urban development has made flooding worse, and has turned some neighborhoods into vulnerable waterfront locations.

In 2010, landslides from flooding killed approximately 700 people and left over 300 missing in three-quarters of China’s provinces. Just this July, heavy rains pummeled southern China, flooding towns, destroying homes, and killing at least 56 people.

In recent years, fatal floods like these have become regular occurrences. The number of Chinese cities struck by floods has more than doubled since 2008, according to The Economist. Some scientists say that rising global temperatures are making rainfall from storms more destructive and frequent.

The Chinese government is now pursuing an idea that could alleviate the problem: sponge cities.

Launched in 2015, the Sponge City Initiative invests in projects that aim to soak up floodwater. The projects are being built in 30 cities, including Shanghai, Wuhan, and Xiamen. By 2020, China hopes that 80% of its urban areas will absorb and re-use at least 70% of rainwater.

To date, the cities have received more than $12 billion for sponge projects, according to China Daily. The central government funds around 15% to 20% of costs, with the remainder funded by local governments and private developers.

Lingang, a planned city in Shanghai’s Pudong district, hopes to become China’s largest sponge city project. As CNN notes, in the past two years, the city government has spent $119 million planting greenery on Read More Here