SHANGHAI — Suzhou Creek was little more than an open sewer for decades as its murky waters coursed through the heart of Shanghai. Now, it teems with life along verdant banks that stretch for 26 miles.

Joggers wind along burgundy paths lined with azaleas, wisteria and osmanthus. Fishermen catch carp weighing up to 11 pounds. Children skip rope, while elderly couples rest on waterfront benches.

“In the past, we couldn’t even come near Suzhou Creek because the water reeked and was black,” said Zhang Guanghe, a 79-year-old retired fertilizer factory foreman, as construction crews planted more trees along the water.

The rehabilitation of Suzhou Creek is part of a nationwide program to build parks across China, offering an escape from the concrete jungles that have long typified many big Chinese cities.

urban planning for the next stage of development, as China evolves into an industrialized, affluent nation. An increasingly educated populace is demanding not just rising pay but also a better quality of life.

“Building parks is very much similar to curbing pollution — though it looks like a money-losing proposition, it is nonetheless good for the society,” said Liu Jing, an accounting and finance professor at Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business in Beijing.

Parks offer an easy, albeit not cheap, way to satisfy some of those societal needs. As with other municipal programs in China, officials can quickly move entire neighborhoods to make way for green spaces — even when there is grumbling from residents.

Since 2001, China has nearly quintupled the acreage of public green space in its cities, according to data from the country’s Ministry of Housing, Urban and

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