Environmental Management

, Volume 57, Issue 2, pp 498–507 | Cite as

Environmental Impacts of China’s Urbanization from 2000 to 2010 and Management Implications

  • Yu Tao
  • Feng LiEmail author
  • John C. Crittenden
  • Zhongming Lu
  • Xiao Sun


Rapid urbanization in China during the first decade of the twenty first century has brought about profound environmental changes at citywide and regional scales. In this paper, we present a comprehensive set of indicators and put forward a new evaluation method for measuring environmental impacts of urbanization from 2000 to 2010. We compared these impacts among 286 cities in mainland China and found that the overall quantity of pollutant discharge decreased as cities became more economically developed during the years 2000–2010. However, larger and denser cities, and wealthier cities in the eastern part of China tended to have larger quantities of pollutant discharge, resource consumption, and changes in land use (i.e., expansion of the built environment). The discharge increase occurred despite these cities having increased their investment in pollution control and construction of municipal environmental infrastructure. The negative impact from the intensity of pollutant discharge (i.e., discharge per unit of economic output) was generally less in more developed cities, although this was not always the case. Some cities, such as resource-based cities and old industrial cities, had both larger quantities of pollutant discharge and greater pollution intensity compared to other types of cities, indicating that environmental impacts did not necessarily decrease with increasing urbanization. The results of this study provide a promising basis for decision-making to reduce the impacts for different types of cities in the decades to come.


Environmental impacts Urbanization Comparative study Megacities Sustainable cities 



This research was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 71273254). We also appreciate support from the Brook Byers Institute for Sustainable Systems and Hightower Chair and Georgia Research Alliance at Georgia Institute of Technology. We thank Dr. Denise Rennis and Dr. Deborah Rogers for assistance with an early version of this manuscript.

Supplementary material

267_2015_614_MOESM1_ESM.doc (85 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 85 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yu Tao
    • 1
  • Feng Li
    • 1
    Email author
  • John C. Crittenden
    • 2
  • Zhongming Lu
    • 2
  • Xiao Sun
    • 1
  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Urban and Regional Ecology, Research Center for Eco-Environmental SciencesChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  2. 2.Brook Byers Institute for Sustainable Systems, School of Civil & Environmental EngineeringGeorgia Institute of TechnologyAtlantaUSA

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