Guangzhou faces population crisis

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 April, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 April, 2007, 12:00am

Demographic experts have warned that Guangzhou could face serious overcrowding in less than 10 years, straining fresh water resources, public hygiene and living space to breaking point.

According to Guangdong Academy of Social Sciences population expert Zheng Zizhen, Guangzhou could reach its capacity in under a decade.

He based his prediction on annual population growth of 10 per cent in recent years.

Experts predict Guangzhou's living conditions could rapidly deteriorate, painting a picture of untreated waste piling up and serious water pollution.

But Professor Zheng said all these problems - except land and space - could be resolved, though not easily, with money and technology.

'We can't recreate land or space,' he said.

'When high-rise flats are crammed full of people and you can shake hands with the person in another building through your windows, the quality of life is terrible.'

Professor Zheng said cramped living conditions could also help to spread infectious diseases such as influenza or Sars.

Guangzhou academic Peng Peng said: 'I think the only thing government can do to slow down the influx of migrants is to upgrade its industry as soon as possible.'

He said hi-tech and high-end industries like software and biomedicine could replace low-end ones such as toy and shoe manufacturing.

'Huge numbers of workers, especially unskilled workers, can then be moved to mountain areas or the east and west of the province,' he said.

Guangzhou party secretary Zhu Xiaodan said in February that the city could support a maximum of 15 million people.

A quarter of a century of economic reform has attracted millions of migrants from around the country to the Pearl River Delta and Guangzhou's population has quadrupled from three million to 12 million.

A statistical bureau report predicted a baby boom in the coming years because most female migrants in the delta were between 20 and 34, which is the optimal age to start a family.

Beijing and Shanghai share Guangzhou's problem, but Mr Zheng said those cities had special policies to control population growth, such as the capital's household registration regime.

Limit to growth

Guangzhou party secretary Zhu Xiaodan said the city can support a maximum population of: 15m