[Marxism] Rapid Economic Growth in China Is Chipping Away at Coastal Wetlands

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Oct 20 09:09:06 MDT 2015

(A useful article but you have to laugh at the reference to Henry 
Paulsen advising the Chinese to adopt sustainable economic policies.)

NY Times, Oct. 20 2015
Rapid Economic Growth in China Is Chipping Away at Coastal Wetlands

BEIJING — Coastal wetlands in China have vanished at an alarming rate 
because of the country’s economic development, and current economic 
plans could diminish them to below the minimum needed for “ecological 
security,” including fresh water, fishery products and flood control, 
according to a report released Monday by Chinese scientists and an 
American research center.

The report, based on 18 months of research, says “the primary driver for 
the reduced area of coastal wetlands is the large-scale and fast 
conversion and land reclamations of coastal wetlands.”

The report adds to the rising concerns of scientists, ordinary Chinese 
and some officials that China’s decades of rapid economic growth have 
caused huge and possibly irreversible damage to the environment. In 
recent years, there have been public outcries over air, water and soil 
pollution. Some Chinese leaders have acknowledged the need to protect 
environmental resources, but many agencies and officials still view 
economic growth as their top priority.

With annual growth now slowing to 7 percent or lower, many people are 
watching to see what measures central and local governments will use to 
sustain it, and how those measures will affect the environment.

The report was released by the Chinese State Forestry Administration, 
the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Paulson Institute, a research 
center on China that is based in Chicago.

“The life-support system is degenerating,” Lei Guangchun, a dean at 
Beijing Forestry University who was a lead researcher on the study, said 
in an interview on Monday. “Wetlands are the core of biodiversity along 
the coastlines. Now they are disappearing.”

Dr. Lei said 60 percent of China’s natural coastline had disappeared 
because of development.

Henry M. Paulson Jr., chairman of the Paulson Institute and a former 
United States Treasury secretary, said in a written statement that “it 
is time to rethink the economic development model of the past and take 
decisive actions toward a more sustainable economic transition.”

Among the chief political questions in China is whether President Xi 
Jinping is serious about transforming the nation’s infrastructure-driven 
economic model to a more sustainable one, and whether he has the power 
to do so. This is expected to be a main topic at a plenary session this 
month of the Communist Party’s Central Committee, which plans to discuss 
the 13th Five-Year Plan for economic development.

Last year, the State Council, which is China’s cabinet, and the State 
Forestry Administration announced that China had to ensure that by 2020 
coastal wetlands did not fall below 131 million acres — the minimum 
necessary for ecological security. But plans to reclaim land from the 
sea and other projects endanger that goal, the report says.

“Sea reclamation is deemed as the quickest and cheapest way to increase 
land supply in China’s eastern coastal areas,” the report says. It adds 
that “huge economic returns from reclamation have prompted local 
governments to ‘bypass’ regulations issued by the central government.”

The report points to systemic problems with environmental conservation 
efforts. It says that “the legal system and effective legal basis 
remains inadequate to conserve coastal wetlands in China” and that 
conservation efforts “are still confronted with conflicts of multiple 
institutions and mechanisms.”

This last point became evident at a news conference about the report on 
Monday that central government officials from various agencies attended. 
Several officials thanked the researchers but said that their agencies 
did not bear sole responsibility for protecting coastal wetlands.

The report calls for the central government to form a more systematic 
approach to wetlands conservation, an effort that now involves the 
overlapping authorities of 12 agencies and 11 coastal administrative areas.

The report identifies about 180 priority areas for conservation along 
the east coast, as well as 11 of the most important habitats for 
migratory birds.

Zhang Zhengwang, a professor of zoology at Beijing Normal University who 
worked on the report, said Chinese coastal wetlands lay on the most 
important of nine global routes for migratory birds and were a critical 
resting point. “China’s wetlands are the only gas station, so to speak, 
along the way,” he said in an interview. “If they cannot feed here, they 
will die.”

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