Mag-lev conflict in Shanghai, China


On Dec 29, 2007, The Shanghai Urban Planning website published in a low-key manner its plan to extend the Mag-lev (Magnetic Levitation) train leading from the airport to Shanghai South Station further into the city center to Hongqiao Transport Hub. The length of the line is 31.8 miles with 1.6 million people living within 200 metres of the new proposed line. After that, the plan was widely reprinted by net citizens, especially among online forums of nearby inhabitants. In order to illustrate their opposition and attract more attention, they began ‘mild walking’ on public places such as People`s Square. The main causes for their opposition can be attributed to three elements: firstly, the planning did not inform them in advance and they argued that this was improper administration; secondly, there are still many debates on the impacts of Mag-lev technology. For example, a famous China academician of the Academy of Engineering told a journalist from International Finance News that the train does not meet the four indices of transport value: safe, reliable, suitable and economical: and is just a kind of ‘traffic toy’ used to show-off. Third, the construction standards are dangerous. For instance, in Germany, the country that invented the Mag-lev train, the standard required buffer distances for nearby residences are 500 metres; in Pudong District, the standard was reduced to 100 metres (Class A protection zone) and 50 metres (Class B protection zone). When applied to the Shanghai-Hangzhou Mag-lev Plan, the shortest lengths were only 30 metres, which could have a strong potential negative impact on human health. Based on these reasons, inhabitants began to take actions to protect their rights.

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Basic Data
NameMag-lev conflict in Shanghai, China
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Urban development conflicts
Transport infrastructure networks (roads, railways, hydroways, canals and pipelines)
Specific CommoditiesTransport Services
Tourism services
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThe length of the line is 31.8 miles with 1.6 million people living within 200 metres of the new proposed line.
Type of PopulationUrban
Potential Affected Population1,600,000
Company Names or State EnterprisesShanghai Maglev Transportation Development Co., Ltd. from China
Siemens from Germany - construction of the original train-set
ThyssenKrupp from Germany - construction of the original train-set
Relevant government actorsShanghai Pudong Government
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)LOW (some local organising)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingNeighbours/citizens/communities
Local scientists/professionals
affected communities, scholars, net citizens, social media
Forms of MobilizationObjections to the EIA
Street protest/marches
Mild walking on People`s Square
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Noise pollution
Health ImpactsPotential: Accidents, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Other environmental related diseases
Otherharmful radiation
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Specific impacts on women, Land dispossession
Potential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Otherlowering the price of flats nearby
Project StatusStopped
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseUnder negotiation
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Project temporarily suspended
Development of AlternativesMore affordable and safe transport options
Do you consider this as a success?Yes
Why? Explain briefly.The project was delayed, the government promised not to implement it without the agreement of local communities.
Meta Information
ContributorEjolt moderators
Last update27/02/2018