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'Our water': City rivers central to Shanghai-Paris cultural event

Ross Cullen in Paris


‌The protection and promotion of rivers, waterfront development, and the historical and cultural connections between the rivers in Shanghai and Paris, were some of the key issues discussed at a forum in Paris on April 18.

The event kicked off a week of cultural events being held in Paris by the Shanghai Municipality.

‌The history of Paris and Shanghai is intertwined with their rivers - the Seine in the French capital, and the Huangpu, Suzhou creek, and the Yangtze in the Chinese city.

‌One of the main topics was how to develop waterfronts to ensure public access, while confronting the challenges from big business and commercial interests.

"A city like Shanghai is very dense, a large city, 25 million people, and the land is very limited so public space and public activity becomes so important to the public, to people, to ordinary people," said Wu Jiang, the president of the Architectural Society of Shanghai.

"So if you can create more parks, more open space it's good but the waterfront is always the best choice."


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‌The Paris 2024 Olympics organizers have chosen to place the River Seine at the heart of the Games, with the opening ceremony due to take place on the water. Paris has already closed its riverside roads, turning them into waterfront public spaces and cycle paths.

‌The question of how to preserve and develop rivers, while bearing in mind the biodiversity and demographic challenges linked to watercourses, formed the core part of this event.

"The immense majority of people live next to the sea or alongside the major rivers," said Martin Robain, an architect and the chief designer of the Shanghai Expo Park.

‌"So it's a problem that we will have to move back because sea levels are going to rise a lot, and for rivers, well that depends on each place. Rivers are part of life, and it's very pleasant to be next to the water."

France and China are linked through the international protection and recognition of the landscapes, biodiversity, and the cultural history of their rivers.

‌Parts of the Loire, France's longest river, and areas of the Yangtze, the world's third-longest river, are both inscribed into UNESCO's world heritage list.

'Our water': City rivers central to Shanghai-Paris cultural event

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