China Shuts Down Industrial Polluters to Improve Air Quality at Shanghai Disneyland

Shanghai Disneyland Hotel Construction - H 2015
Courtesy of Disney

Shanghai Disneyland Hotel Construction - H 2015

Opening in spring 2016, Disney's flagship theme park in China is already bringing sunshine into the lives of local residents — literally.

Although its official opening is still nearly a year away, Walt Disney Co.’s $5.5 billion Chinese theme park is already changing the lives of the people of Shanghai for the better.

According to a local Chinese government authority, 153 heavy polluters in the resort's vicinity have been ordered to close before the end of 2016 to boost the air quality and atmosphere around the park. Shanghai Disneyland, nearly 10 years in the making, is set to open its doors to the Chinese public in the first half of 2016.

The Shanghai Municipal Commission, which announced the order, didn't name specific companies or explain whether they would be compensated for relocation, but it did note that many of the organizations were involved in high-pollution, high-energy consumption activities, such as steel production and chemical engineering. The local government is encouraging more environmentally friendly industries, like agriculture and tourism, to take their place. 

The planned 963-acre Shanghai Disneyland site sits in Shanghai's Pudong district. The park's centerpiece will be the Enchanted Storybook Castle, the largest, most technologically advanced Disney castle in the world. Marvel and Star Wars characters will feature elsewhere in the park's six themed lands. One of the major planned attractions is Treasure Cove, an expansive Pirates of the Caribbean-themed park. 

Disney CEO Bob Iger has promised a "truly magical place that is both authentically Disney and distinctly Chinese."

Delivering the Chinese perspective, Shanghai Disneyland will include an 11-acre park called the Garden of the Twelve Friends, a green space with 12 massive mosaics that depict the 12 signs of the Chinese Zodiac using Disney characters. It is described as having "lush cherry blossom" groves.

Shanghai Disneyland is the largest theme park being built in China and an estimated 330 million potential guests live within three hours from the site. At least 20 million visitors are expected to visit the park within its first year.

The project is a joint venture between Disney, which owns 43 percent, and Shanghai Shendi Group, a state-owned enterprise that holds 57 percent.  

Although spurred by Disney's impending launch, the air quality improvement effort is part of a broader plan to retool Shanghai, as the city tries to establish itself as East Asia's top financial hub — and an area of China less reliant on dirty industrial output.