[Marxism] Rapid Economic Growth in China Is Chipping Away at Coastal Wetlands
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
By EDWARD WONG and MIA LI
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
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
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