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Guangzhou – Many lessons for Bangalore

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InfrastructureUrban Development

The third largest city in China, Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong province, is a city of about 8 million & is similar in population /size to Bangalore. It lies at a distance of a mere 2 hours (by road or rail) from Hong-Kong, in southern China.

During my previous visit here (2004), I had noticed some chaotic conditions on the streets, mainly due to the presence of two-wheelers (motorcycles). However, now with the removal of the tens of thousands of motor cycles & with only 4 wheelers on the scene, the roads are much more orderly.

Car parking is not permitted on most roads. There are private parking lots & multi-level or underground parking facilities that charge about 5 Yuans (Appx Rs.40) for two hours. Thus, there are less cluttered streets, though congestion levels are very high during peak hours.

Apart from the four metro lines in operation now (with another four lines under construction), the city operates the world's largest fleet of about 7000 CNG & electric trolley buses. Thus, air pollution is well controlled. Almost all buses are low floored, with rear mounted engines - Japanese & Korean models are the most popular.

A lot of other developments have also been carried out – see pictures below :

Excellent pedestrian & bicycle facilities, resembles Singapore in many respects




Well marked street lanes & pedestrian crossings



Open, but clean storm drain through CBDs that joins Pearl river (which empties into China sea).


Metro access well marked & runs below the largest mall (“Teemall”).







Salecha's picture

Guangzhou – Many lessons for Bangalore

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Thanks for providing detailed informations.


s_yajaman's picture

Naveen - thanks for the pics

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Coincidentally GZ was the first city that I visited outside of India.  This was in Jan 1997.  Those days there were more cycles than cars, but the city still had a neat and organized look to it. 

Then I went in 2001, 2002 and 2003.  More cars, more expressways, the Metro, the new airport opened 3 years back I think. 

Some things stand out for me in Naveen's pics

a. The lovely sidewalk with tactile tiles.

b. The neat steel railings along the entrance to the underpass.  Contrast that to what we churn out here.

c. The cycle stand and what looks like a cycle lane.

d. The pedestrian bridge with flowers (seems to have taken a page from Singapore)

e. The overall organized look about things.

Funny that a communist government which does not care about getting reelected seems to care more for its citizens than a democratically elected govt here that actually has to get reelected.  Wonder why. 

Is it because they so heavily depend(ed) on FDI that they had to make the place look attractive to foreigners?  Or is it because they can be ruthless because there are no vote banks to be pandered to (and so can e.g. ban motorbikes).




Drive safe.  It is not just the car maker which can recall its product.

s_yajaman's picture

Also need to remember

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a. That migration into Chinese cities is controlled. 

b. One has practically no recourse against any injustice by the State against you.  What we are seeing here is the pretty end picture.  Who knows what went into making it.  It might sound like a case of sour grapes... I am sure the Metro would have been built double quick as there would have been no litigation to deal with.   For us sacrifice is good as long as someone else is making it :)

What lessons for Bangalore?

a. Executional excellence.  There really is no excuse for not having this.  Building a proper pavement or a proper underpass can be learnt. 

b. While litigations are a part of life here (we also get the benefits of them when things go too wrong), they can be avoided by doing groundwork and having a proper policy around acquisition and compensation.  in some ways the Metro has done a decent job of this.




Drive safe.  It is not just the car maker which can recall its product.

rs's picture

I think the main difference

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I think the main difference between a city like Guangzhou and Bangalore is effective policing. There also seems to be some thought being given towards the development - as opposed to Bangalore where the only thought is being done on sites like Praja.

One likes to think it is that our Indian culture which prevents us from keeping public things well or clean, maintaining order etc. Thats far from being true. The basic problem is that there are no rules - government laws are merely suggestive.

For example, traffice chaos. On many, or most instances much of the chaos is caused by a few inconsiderate sons of bachelors who decide to either stop in the middle of the road to read the newpaper or wait for a client. Or decided to take a U-turn or go the wrong way on a one way road. Drivers believe that if they are in the vehicle they wan stop anywhere - since if a cop comes along they can use those miracle words `Next time'.

On the footpaths in commerical areas - Malleswaram Sampige road for example - a third of the foot path is occupied by hawkers and another third is encroached by shopkeepers who decide to display thier wares on the foot path, leaving only a third for the hapless pedestrian - who has to share this space with other pedestrians who have decided to stop to shop.

On footpaths in non-commercial areas - well, here the encroacment is done by either construction materials or by motorbikes/scooters and the occasion Bescom / Airtel box. Added to this there are badly planted trees and the whole path is essentially an obstacle course - which makes it impossible for anyone who is above the age of 45 to use.

The new infrastructure projects which have been `completed' are far from being complete. Yeswantpur flyover - inagurated 4 months ago - is still incomplete. The side roads are not made - there is total chaos below the flyover as it has become a free for all. People dont seem to know that we drive to the left in this country.

Malleswaram underpass is also incomplete and is a disaster and is not clear if it has had any beneficial effect. The point is that `they' whoever they may be, dont take a wholistic aproach to the problem and do these patchwork solutions which work for a few months and then fail - after which they throw up their hands and say nothing can be done.

What are the solutions ?

1. Effective policing.

2. Accountabilty for public infrastructure projects.


psaram42's picture

Great pictures!

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Hi Naveen

 Reference is made to your picture of the open drain:-

 “Open, but clean storm drain through CBDs that joins Pearl River (which empties into China Sea).”

 This drain need not be open. It can be a closed one infiltrating as much water into ground as possible. The extra storm water available only need be discharged in to sea.

 I am sure next time you or srivatsa visit the place the open drain will be closed. The extra place will be having exuberant greenery. Looks like the new technologies are still not arrived in China.

Naveen's picture

Not best to cover drains everywhere

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Psaram Sir,

I'm not sure your observation is entirely correct. This picture is that of a rivulet adjacent Jiangnanxi metro station here, close to my hotel. It is also a SWD (rain water from the street/s drain into this rivulet).

It is a green patch with water flowing through an otherwise concrete jungle that Guangzhou CBD area has become.

You are right in some ways - on the other side of the road, the same rivulet has been covered by RCC slabs, & in sharp contrast, the opposite area appears dull & devoid of any natural features.

On another thread, there is the example of Fuzhou - the rivulet or SWD that was converted to a lovely green patch.

So, I'm not entirely in agreement with the closed drain theory. In some cases, it maybe better to have them closed, whilst at other locations, it may be better to keep it clean & open to provide some greenery & natural features.

RKCHARI's picture

Open Vs Closed - the eternal debate

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Hi Naveen,

Major issue to be considered for India in promoting closed drains is the abysmal civic sense we have. Can you imagine how diffcult it would be  for Indians not to use it as a useful dumping channel including using it as an open toilet?

Even if large SW Drains like Raj Kalves are required to be kept open for historical /sentimental reasons, our infiltrations tanks can be "installed" at the centre of the open Raj Kulve which will automatically ensure clean water is taken to the Lakes instead of filthy water. We are able to do this by using biomass precursers, but even that cannot stop people from dumping daily household garbage on the open Raj Kalves which will eventually pollute the Lake water.(Just take a look at the entry point of the major Raj Kulve leading to Ulsoor Lake - it is truly horrible and apart from being a health hazard, it is demeaning to even belong to cities which have such poor record of civic utility provision). No where in the world can you see such filth - not even in China.

Having some closed and some open drains does not really make sense as the very conbcept of storm water infiltration to recharge ground water table would be lost. Rain falls evenly when it does fall and you cannot really divide it by infiltrating in portions of a drain and allowing it to flow in some other portions. The whole idea of safety against open drains where children do not fall and where polluted water is not taken to join an already polluted Lake would be defeated if infiltration of all SW is not planned for any city.

I hope the pholosophy behind what we promote is seen in this light and not merely deduced as a marketing ploy.




Naveen's picture

Guangzhou - Construction Site

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Hi All,

The picture below shows a major intersection opposite my hotel. An underpass is being built at the intersection. Despite the enormous construction activity, the user facilities on the streets are astounding, even in China !

I've marked out various points & one can easily appreciate the orderliness & public conveniences around the intersection.

ssheragu's picture

lessons from Guangzhou

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I am really amazed by the pics of Guangzhou; one fact is that it is a communist country, totally government controlled with no room for PIL's; however, even then it would not have been possible without the discipine of the common man and the average level of literacy ( my guess is that it is quite high in China compared to India)

I am totally bowled over by the metro pics; I understand that nowhere in Guangzhou you have overhead metro, only underground; now I am all the more convinced that in order to have utility combined with aesthetics, we should by all means, stop the overhead metro and go in only for underground metro like Guang zhou; as I suggested earlier, the overhead metro  can be stopped immediately and whatever has been done, could be converted into monorail; we should have only underground metro; if only any one Praja member can join me in this, we can start driving the authorities in this direction;

many thanks

Srinath Heragu

Naveen's picture

Guangzhou BRT - Construction Pictures

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Guangzhou BRT has been under construction & will soon be ready. Here are some pictures from around the Gongyuanzhan area (CBD /shopping districts) of the city.

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An interesting feature is that the busways along this CBD street are not at the median or at the sides. They are positioned between the median & the peripheral lanes, thus they occupy intermediate lanes. Through traffic (mixed) uses the lanes adjacent the median whereas turning traffic uses the peripheral lanes whilst buses are planned to run in between these flow patterns.





The road is very wide – 2+1+4+1+2 lanes, ie. 10 lanes wide, in all, with wide pedestrian sidewalks.



Planning & execution appear immaculate – they are in fact planning to demolish a new pedestrian sky bridge since it comes in the way & a larger skywalk that spans across the bus stop/s is being built.



Naveen's picture

Guangzhou BRT - Another Transmilleno!

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Awesome collection of pictures of the spanking new Guangzhou BRT here. Also, see their official (english) webpage here, & Map /station locations here.

Guangzhou officially opened the 22.5-kilometer Guangzhou bus rapid transit system (GBRT) on February 21, after a ten-day test run over the Chinese New Year holiday period. The GBRT is a system of firsts: it is the first BRT to directly connect to a metro system, the first BRT system in China to include bike parking in its station design, it has the world’s highest number of passenger boardings at BRT stations, highest BRT bus frequency, and longest BRT stations. Station operation is impressive, and its ridership levels are second only to Bogotá’s Transmilenio.

Passenger interest in the system is high - all day at Tangxia and other stations people line the pedestrian bridges to view the system in operation. Passenger ridership now exceeds 25,000 passengers per hour in a single direction, at the highest demand point in the rush hour; more than triple any other BRT system in Asia. Daily passenger ridership is currently more than 800,000 boardings per day, which is more than any of Guangzhou’s 5 metro lines, and is expected to exceed 1 million passenger trips per day by the end of 2010. More than 70,000 passenger boardings take place each day at a single station (Gangding). Each ride on the system is 2 yuan, or passengers can use a smart card to board. Regular smart card users get a 40% discount after taking 15 trips in a month, and passengers can transfer for free to other BRT routes in the same direction.

The 26-station system runs along the Zhongshan Avenue corridor, an important route for commuters, in the center of the roadway with right-side prepaid passenger boarding. Each 12-meter long bus in the system features two right-side doors and uses liquid petroleum gas (LPG) fuel.

System stations are spaced approximately 880 meters apart all along the corridor, with one further station to be added in 2011, upon completion of a related road project. The GBRT features connecting tunnels from the BRT platform to the Guangzhou metro at three stations, one of which is currently open, with the other two to open later this year. Forty-two bus routes operate in the corridor, all but one of which operates both inside and outside the BRT corridor and stations.

The system is regulated by the Public Transport Management Office (planning) and BRT Management Co. (control), and is operated by seven bus operating companies divided into three corporate groups. Bus operators are paid per kilometer rather than per passenger, with a new BRT control center used to control bus departures from terminals. Infrastructure costs to build the GBRT were 30 million yuan renminbi (US$ 4.4 million) per kilometer.

Guangzhou’s system was faster to implement than a new metro line would have been, with the conceptual plan, engineering design, construction each taking one year to complete. Including times when the project was placed on hold, planning and building the Guangzhou BRT took five years from start to finish. comment guidelines

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