Research Project: RECAST Urumqi

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Meeting the Resource Efficiency Challenge in a Climate Sensitive Dryland Megacity Environment: Urumqi as a Model City for Central Asiat

Project objectives: The sustainable development of megacities.
Map with Urumqi

Modified according to CIA Factbook; public domain

The objective of the transdisciplinary project is to develop strategies and tools for the sustainable development of a rapidly expanding metropolis in arid central Asia (Urumqi/NW China), so as to promote and guarantee current and future quality of life in this urban area. To reach this goal, key agents from the fields of research, local administrations and practice as well as business cooperate closely within the project. Over the course of the project feedback mechanisms are to be applied to accompany the developing process that will be taking place over the next 5 years. [read more]

Urumqi – a rapidly growing city in arid north-western China
Zentrum von Urumqi

The research object is Urumqi, the capital of the autonomous region Xinjiang, located in north-western China and characterized by an arid landscape. With an annual economic growth rate of 17% for 2007, the region lies above the national average, which can be attributed to its abundance of valuable natural resources, especially coal, natural gas and petroleum. Because of the favourable economic conditions the population of Urumqi and the surrounding metropolitan area has been increasing rapidly for years (currently over 4 million inhabitants). These changes occur against the background of fundamental transformation processes in the social system, which are occurring throughout China.

The administrative merger of Urumqi and the surrounding Changji Hui Autonomous Prefecture will also imply major infrastructural changes, therefore exists now a window of opportunity for the actual operation and implementation of solutions developed by the project. The fusion of Urumqi City (population ca. 2.2 Mio.) with the neighbouring cities of Changji region (population ca. 2 Mio.) created on April 1st 2006 the new metropolitan area Uchang (population then over 4 Mio.) and will continue over the next years. This time overlaps with the duration of the BMBF Future Megacities Programme and offers the opportunity not only to outline, but also to implement future-oriented concepts and development alternatives as well as to monitor and to evaluate its consequences. A five year project phase also allows reshuffling when reorganizing is necessary.

Model City Urumqi

The expansion of the agglomeration of Urumqi is causing environmental problems that are typical for cities in arid areas. Such cities are characterised by limited ecological resources as well as a high sensitivity and reactivity towards changes caused by nature (global change) and man (human impact). The sensitivity towards interior and exterior influences on urban life in arid areas affects all functional interactions between the social, economic and ecological dynamics. Despite the high potential risk involved, the conditions under which the process of urbanisation in arid areas takes place have been hardly explored so far. Urumqi, with its present dynamic development, is anticipating a process that other ambitious dry land metropolises are observing with great interest, especially in Central Asia (particularly in the former Soviet Republics), but also in the Middle East and on the edge of the Sahara Desert. For the project to meet its claim to be transferable to issues beyond the need for action in a given situation, management strategies, training programs and technologies should not only focus on essential key points, but at the same time be designed in an adequately flexible fashion.

Social structures in Urumqi
Picture of Urumqi

The population majority in Urumqi city are Han-Chinese, while the Changji region has more population of the National Minorities (Uygur, Hui, Kyrgyz, Kazakh, and Mongolian amongst others). The social structures differ from place to place; therefore, the close local cooperation with different stakeholder groups and decision-makers occupies a central part of the project. In the end, the tools developed during the project should contribute to improving the quality of life for the population and enhancing a sustainable economic development..

Focuses of the project

RECAST Urumqi Taskgroups

Focuses of the project present the ecologically sensitive and closely interrelated core cycles water, materials and energy. The project is therefore divided into three core cycles: energy, water resource, and material resource efficiency.

Facilitation of Sustainable Megacity Development through Water Resource Efficiency in a Semiarid Climate

Due to the rising demand by industry, agriculture and households, the main focus is on the availability of and access to clean and healthy potable water.

Task group leaders: Prof. Dr. Kurt Roth, Institute for Environmental Physics, Heidelberg University and Prof. Dr. Olaf Bubenzer, Geographical Institute, Heidelberg University

Facilitation of Sustainable Megacity Development through Material Resource Efficiency

Project objectives are the minimization of waste in terms of quantity and contagiousness, the support of cycle-oriented waste management (development of carrying recycling concepts amongst others) as well as the overall improvement of the material resource efficiency. Where no further usage of waste materials is possible, environmentally friendly disposal is pursued.

Task group leaders: Prof. Dr. Dietfried G. Liesegang, IUWA – The Institute for Eco-Industrial Analyses, Heidelberg e.V./ Alfred Weber Institute for Economics, Heidelberg University and Dr. Thomas Sterr, IUWA– The Institute for Eco-Industrial Analyses, Heidelberg e.V.

Facilitation of Sustainable Megacity Development through Energy Efficiency

Focus of this project is on environmentally oriented energy production, transport and supply and especially its rational and economical usage. Furthermore, the usage of regenerative energies will be encouraged.

Task group leader: Dipl.-Biol. Bernd Franke, IFEU (Institute for Energy and Environmental Research gGmbH, Heidelberg) and Hans Hertle, IFEU (Institute for Energy and Environmental Research gGmbH Heidelberg)

Project Design

The project funding by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research of Germany (BMBF) initially covered a setup-phase of two years (September 2005 – August 2007). During this time contacts with the key Chinese partners in Urumqi and surrounding Changji as well as non governmental organisations and experts from economy and scientific research were intensified and the central needs of the population in the core cycles water, material and energy were identified. First concepts for each core cycle were developed. On May 1st 2008 the main phase began, it is planned for the period 2008 - 2013.

Urumqi Projektdesign

German project partners

Chinese project partners

  • Environmental Protection Bureau (EPB) of the Government of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China
  • Environmental Protection Bureau (EPB) of Urumqi City
  • Environmental Protection Bureau (EPB) of Changji Hui Autonomous Prefecture
  • CAS – Chinese Academy of Science Xinjiang
  • Bureau of Exploration and Development of Geology and Mineral Resources, Xinjiang
  • Water Affairs Bureau, Urumqi
  • Xinjiang University
  • Xinjiang Environmental Protection Institute (XJEPI)

Responsible task group leaders

For the realization of the project goals, these responsible task group leaders were identified:

  1. Task group water resource efficiency
    German side: Prof. Dr. Kurt ROTH (Institute for Environmental Physics, Heidelberg University)
    Chinese side: QIN Jijun (Director of the Water Affairs Bureau, Urumqi), scientific coordination by Prof. ZHANG Jiebin (CAS Xinjiang, Institute for Geography and Ecology)
  2. Task group material resource efficiency
    German side: Prof. Dr. Dietfried G. LIESEGANG (IUWA – Institute for Eco-Industrial Analysis Heidelberg e.V.)
    Chinese side: QIN Jijin (General Director EPB Urumqi)
  3. Task group energy efficiency
    German side: Dipl.-Biol. Bernd FRANKE (ifeu – Institute for Energy and Environment Research gGmbH)
    Chinese side: AHATI Jiaerheng (Director Supervision & Administration Division, EPB of the Government of Xinjiang)

Advisory board

Prof. Dr. Bernhard EITEL Rector of Heidelberg University, Professor of Physical Geography and former coordinator of the setupphase
Heidelberg University, Rectorate, Grabengasse 1, 69117 Heidelberg
Dr. ZHAO Hualin Vice-Director General, Department of Monitoring and Administration of the Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP) of the People’s Republic of China, Beijing, China; former Vice-Director of EPB Xinjiang
No. 115 Xizhimennei Nanxiaojie, Beijing 100035, China
Dr. Eckart WÜRZNER Lord Mayor of the City of Heidelberg, President of the Centre of Environmental Expertise Rhine-Neckar e.V., former Mayor for the Environment of the City of Heidelberg
City Hall, Am Marktplatz 10, 69117 Heidelberg.
Prof. Dr. ZHANG Xiaolei Director of the Ministry for Science and Technology, Xin-jiang, Urumqi, and director of CAS (Chinese Academy of Sicience) Xinjiang; former director of the Institute for Science and Technolgy, Xinjiang, Urumqi, and director of the Institute for Ecology and Geography of CAS Xinjiang Urumqi, leading scientific director on the Chinese side during the setup-phase
CAS Xinjiang, No. 40-7 Beijing South Road, Urumqi, Xinjiang, 830011, China
Prof. Dr. Viktor DULGER Director of ProMinent GmbH, an industrial enterprise in Heidelberg with long experience in China and Xinjiang, honorary citizen and honorary professor in Dalian, China
ProMinent GmbH, Im Schuhmachergewann 5-11, 69123 Heidelberg-Wieblingen
Edgar ENDRUKAITIS GTZ, Berlin; longtime expert for China and GTZ China program director until 2007
GTZ GmbH, Berlin Reichpietschufer 20, 10785 Berlin
Stefan DALLINGER Director of the Regional Planning Commission Rhine-Neckar and executive director of the Rhine-Neckar GmbH, Mannheim
Verband Region Rhein-Neckar P7, 20-21, 68161 Mannheim
Dr. ZHAO Miaogen Vice Director of the Sino-German Center for Research Promotion, Beijing. Shuangqing Lu 83, Beijing 100085, China
Verband Region Rhein-Neckar P7, 20-21, 68161 Mannheim


General Project network coordinator and Project coordination on the German side:
Dr. Thomas STERR, Geographical Institute, Heidelberg University

Project coordination on the Chinese side:
AINUWAER, Member of the standing committee of Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPCC) of the People’s Republic of China EPB
TU, Ruihe, Vice Director of the Environmental Protection Bureau (EPB) of the Government of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China

Sino-German coordination German side:
Dipl.-Volksw. Sha XIA, IUWA Heidelberg e.V.

Sino-German coordination Chinese side:
AHATI Jaerheng (Director Supervision & Administration Division, EPB of the Government of Xinjiang)

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Latest Revision: 2019-05-03
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