Tuesday, May 10, 2005

More Hope for a Greener China

Two interesting and to me, uplifting articles about the increasing attention being paid to environmental issues in China in the May 10 Asia Times. The first covers a recent contest held in China to award the most innovative sustainable development schemes. The article focuses on a small city in Inner Mongolia and its creation of a long-term development plan that protects the surrounding environment and gives incentives for this protection:
Mayor Qian Ruixia said: "We do not want to turn our attention to protecting the environment only after terrible damage is already done." Accordingly, in 2002, the city government worked out a long-term development plan, which was greatly dependent on local ecological resources. According to Qian, 90% of the city's land area is covered by virgin ecosystems. "Here you can find [every type of ecosystem except] maritime resources, including grasslands, wetlands, forests and rivers," she said.

Local farmers are encouraged to turn cultivated land back to grasslands and breed livestock such as cows. A dairy industry has been set up and eco-tourism is well-developed. Ecological resources are the base of economic development, and therefore, any activities harmful to such resources are prohibited, Qian said. For example, the number of tourists entering the city is restricted because too many of them could be a heavy burden for the local environment.

The development plan has helped preserve the local ecology, while still achieving a double-digit annual rise in gross domestic product (GDP). The city's development plan was listed as one of the 10 best examples of sustainable development nationally, as ected from more than 100 entrants by a panel of experts. The experts' comments on the Ergun practices noted that the city government's plan has effectively combined the protection of ecological resources with economic development and will preserve a beautiful environment in the area for future generations.
The article goes on to discuss the role of NGOs in promoting sustainable development and details one NGO's successful effort to create a watershed management program for Lashi Lake, in Yunnan.

The second article talks about the resurrection of an old Socialist concept for China's new economy:
In the old days of the socialist command economy in China, when scarcity of goods was the order of the day, almost everything was recycled: packaging, clothes, car parts, building materials, and human, animal, and plant waste. Now China's leaders are trying to re-inject that ethos into the world's fastest-growing economy, but with little success so far, experts say.

In mid-2004, the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) began recycling a concept that has been around for a long time in China's policy-making circles - that of a circular economy, in which optimum reuse of materials and resources is achieved, boosting the green GDP index recently unveiled by the agency.
Though many experts believe that it will be difficult for China to translate slogans into action, not everyone is a pessimist:
David Moskovitz, director of the Regulatory Assistance Project, a US non-profit research group that works on conservation issues in China, said the government had already set new national efficiency standards for air conditioners in September and new "Euro II" standards for automobile emissions in Beijing. It also imposed fuel economy standards on new cars for the first time in September.

"More and more high-level officials are becoming aware of the very large cost that the heavy pollution load in China is imposing on their people and on their economy," Moskowitz said. "I suspect it's really laying the groundwork for even more serious environmental protection actions that will be taken in the coming months."
As I've mentioned in previous posts, the Asia Times is a great source for news from Asia and elsewhere. Both of these articles are well-worth your time.

6 comments:

Hui Mao said...

Nice finds. One of the things that makes me optimistic about the Hu/Wen administration is the shift away from the economic growth at all costs mentality of the Jiang era to a new perspective that also takes into account the environmental and social costs of economic development. I'm hopeful that there will be more positive developments on this front in the years to come.

Other Lisa said...

Hui Mao, I agree - and I hope for all of our sakes that we are right.

Now if we can just get Hu/Wen to accept that a free public discourse and competition of ideas is a good thing too...

JR said...

Lisa,

Good news tonight,check this out. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4539623.stm

Other Lisa said...

JR,

well, it's too bad that the state of today's republican party is such that a smart and brave Senator like Voinovich can't vote against Bolton in committee without risking political suicide. But the article you linked to really is a boost. Who knows, maybe this guy will go down...there's still time...

Speaking of which, you know the hot rumor is that Bolton was a participant in a very famous sex/swinger's club in New York called Plato's Retreat.

To which I can only say, "EYEEWWWW!!!!!"

For more reports on wingnut perversions, check out Digby's blog. Very funny except that for some reason these folks still get a free pass... http://digbysblog.blogspot.com

Thijs said...

Chinese view on environment

In 2002 I visited the Shougang factory near Beijing, an impressive jungle of steel.

They created a big lake and put a lot of beautiful trees and plants around it to compensate for all the harm brought to the environment by the factory. This showed they cared about the environment. But does such a project really decrease the damage done to the environment?

Other Lisa said...

Thijs, I'm sure there's a Chinese proverb to describe that kind of project, but an American one works pretty well - "putting lipstick on a pig." Of course building an artificial lake and planting a few trees doesn't mitigate environmental devastation on the scale that China has experienced. But I do think that the sorts of new regulations and policies the Chinese government is discussing and adapting shows that they have some real understanding of the scope of the problem and of the kinds of measures that might be undertaken to improve things. The question is, as always, whether these laws and regs are enforceable on the ground, out in the provinces where "the Emperor is far away" and individuals' wealth and power may trump any developing system of law.

I hope for the best.