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Is The Three Gorges Dam a Force For Good?

21 Mar

The Three Gorges Dam is the world’s largest hydropower project and one of the most notorious dams in the world. Not only does the dam produce electricity for a large proportion of china’s inhabitants, factories and other socio-economic factors, it also increases the Yangtze River’s overall shipping capacity. As a result this improves space available for imports and exports, essentially benefitting china’s ever-growing economy. Whilst the dam was initially rewarded for its social and economic success and being branded as ‘a state-of-the-art historic engineering process’ by the Chinese government, China, as a whole are now beginning to acknowledge the serious problems created by this engineering process.

The creation of the reservoir has a number of economic values. ‘It will aid in boosting agriculture, since the reservoir will hold more water for irrigation. With a final depth of 525 ft, larger ships can be used to transport products up and down the Yangtze River. This increased navigability will increase the economy in the area.’ (Mtholyoke.edu, 2014) Trade is also estimated to increase five times in the Central China. Transportation costs are also expected to reduce by 35-37%.

The dam was produced with the idea of creating electricity and moving towards the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. The project may have achieved these intentions, however, many concerns have arisen from the project since. The huge project set records for the number of people displaced by the creation of the dam, which was more than 1.2 million. A large number of cities and towns were also flooded as a consequence of its presence.

‘The project has been plagued by corruption, spiraling costs, environmental impacts, human rights violations and resettlement difficulties.’ (International Rivers, 2014), The environmental impacts of the project have also been profound. ‘The submergence of hundreds of factories, mines and waste dumps, and the presence of massive industrial centers upstream are creating a festering bog of effluent, silt, industrial pollutants and rubbish in the reservoir.’ (International Rivers, 2014). This has resulted in the widespread contamination of the waters around China, creating hazardous water and serious threats to anyone who may consume it, as well posing threats to the wildlife and nature around the area.

The dam also poses serious threat the land surrounding the dam. Erosion of the reservoir and downstream riverbanks are causing landslides, and threatening one of the world’s biggest fisheries in the East China Sea. Not only does this impact the environment, but also Chinese industries, such as the fishing industry.

The government maintains that “the project is now greatly benefiting the society in the aspects of flood prevention, power generation, river transportation and water resource utilization”, but it has also “caused some urgent problems in terms of environmental protection, the prevention of geological hazards and the welfare of the relocated communities.”

Critics have also argued that the project may have exacerbated recent droughts by withholding critical water supply to downstream users and ecosystems, and through the creation of a microclimate by its giant reservoir.

All in all, the construction of the Three Gorges Dam has had many implications on the environment and people of China. ‘Official estimates put the cost of the dam at $24 billion’ (TPJC, 2014), this also has to be paid by the people of China and many are wondering if their money is really being put to good use. It is still yet to be discovered if the energy created by the Three Gorge Dam can be efficiently utilized into China’s energy grid. If proven successful, this could result in many other countries in the world following a similar path to China and constructing dams of their own.

References

International Rivers. 2014. Three Gorges Dam. [online] Available at: http://www.internationalrivers.org/campaigns/three-gorges-dam [Accessed: 19 Mar 2014].

Mtholyoke.edu. 2014. Economic Issues. [online] Available at: http://www.mtholyoke.edu/~lpohara/Pol%20116/ecomonic.html [Accessed: 19 Mar 2014].

TPJC, G. 2014. Three Gorges Dam. [online] Available at: http://3gorgesdam.blogspot.co.uk [Accessed: 19 Mar 2014].

 

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Are Chinese waistlines growing faster than the Chinese GDP?

7 Mar

The older generations of China will expressively remember the Great Famine of 1958-61, when 45 million people died of hunger related causes, bringing widespread devastation to the country of China. ‘Today, nearly every street corner in Beijing and many other cities seem to boast a McDonald’s.’ (Independent.co.uk, 2014). Given how impoverished the country was not long ago and how underprivileged parts of it still are, ‘having a problem where people are eating too much may seem a little churlish to complain about,’ says Paul French, a Shanghai based author.

According to the World Health Organisation, obesity within China is becoming an increasingly alarming concern. Although the overall rates of obesity fall below 5% in the country, some cities have experienced obesity rates of over 20%. This demonstrates the dramatic social and economical changes that have occurred over the past 30 years, during China’s rapid development. As obesity in China is predominantly confined to the larger cities, such as Beijing and Shanghai, it demonstrates how globalization and the ‘fast food culture’ has truly taken over, whilst the poorer more rural areas are left to suffer from the inequalities that are still present within the country.

‘High rates of smoking, lack of exercise and unhealthy diets have contributed to an onslaught of disease in China. Like many developed countries have experienced, bad habits came with greater wealth.’ (WSJ.com, 2014)

The rising number of overweight Chinese people is, in part, the result of the country’s remarkable economic growth over the last 30 years. Many lifestyle changes and environmental changes have occurred in China during this reform. Rapid urban development has left very little public space for the inhabitants to exercise, which is far from ideal as the country is already lacking in gyms and sports clubs, particularly in areas located out of the cities. ‘More Chinese are also moving to cities where they may encounter worse pollution, less-healthy diets, sedentary lifestyles and jobs that demand long hours.’ (Presse, 2014) The demands and stresses of the average Chinese workers lifestyle leaves them with little concern over their fitness and health, simply due to lack of time and other priorities such as work and family.

According to Wang Longde, the Chinese vice health minister, the problem is that the population does not have enough awareness and lacks knowledge of nutrition and what constitutes a reasonable diet.

Has China’s emphasis on advancing in life academically to get a better education and job lured the population away from participation in sport and exercise? De-emphasis on sports could play a crucial role in the rise of obesity in China. Does the heavy emphasis on schoolwork and employment pressures keep children away from physical activity?

References

French, P. and Crabbe, M. 2010. Fat China. London: Anthem Press

Independent.co.uk. 2014. China confronts problem of obesity. [online] Available at: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/china-confronts-problem-of-obesity-8434421.html [Accessed: 7 Mar 2014].

Presse, A. 2014. Obesity On The Rise For China’s Young Adults. [online] Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/08/06/china-young-adult-obese_n_3711059.html [Accessed: 7 Mar 2014].

Usa.chinadaily.com.cn. 2014. Obesity rate on the increase|Society|chinadaily.com.cn. [online] Available at: http://usa.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2013-08/06/content_16872878.htm [Accessed: 7 Mar 2014].

WSJ.com. 2014. Health Experts Encourage China to Help Combat Non-Communicable Diseases – China Real Time Report – WSJ. [online] Available at: http://blogs.wsj.com/chinarealtime/2013/11/13/health-experts-encourage-china-to-help-combat-diseases/ [Accessed: 7 Mar 2014].

Is Time Running out for China’s One Child Policy?

27 Feb

There are more than 1.3 billion people living, working and building families in China. Until three centuries ago, multiple generations of Chinese families would live under one roof. Today, though, this is no longer the norm. The one-child policy, officially named as the ‘family planning policy’, is the population control policy of the People’s Republic of China. The Chinese government instituted the policy in 1979, as a humanitarian response to China’s overpopulation problem. The implementation of this policy was the result of too many people living in China versus limited resources available to cope for these vast populations. The policy was initially introduced as a temporary measure to curb population growth and aid economic development. While this policy was originally presented as a temporary measure, it remains in place more than 30 years on and China is now starting to feel the economic and social consequences.

Until the 1960s, the government encouraged families to have as many children as possible. Chairman Mao believed in “the more the better”, meaning that a higher population would result in more workers, which meant a healthier, faster growing economy. In their eyes, population growth both empowered and stimulated the countries economy. Hence, this prevented the emergence of family planning programs at an earlier stage of Chinas development.

According to The World Population review, 2014, China’s population grew from around 540 million in 1949 to an astonishing 940 million in 1976. Beginning in 1970, citizens were encouraged to marry at later ages and have only two children. Although the fertility rate began to decline significantly, future population growth proved overwhelming and Chinese leaders soon announced the one-child policy.  Further increases to the population would lead to economic and social instabilities for China’s people, in terms of water, food, housing, education, employment, healthcare and a myriad of other requirements. More broadly speaking, the one child policy was designed to increase the capital per worker and output per worker, thus increasing economic growth. Furthermore, by reducing the dependency ratio, poverty would decrease and living standards would rise. 

The one-child policy has unquestionably caused fertility to decline more rapidly than it otherwise would have – and has therefore played a significant role in China’s demographic transition. ‘This transition may have delivered a substantial “demographic dividend” to the country, explaining up to one-quarter of its per capita GDP growth in the last three decades according to some estimates.’ (Jane Golley Researcher, 2013). Alongside such rapid GDP growth comes better nourishment, escalating levels of education, longer life expectancies, and higher living standards for the vast majority of Chinese people. The one-child policy, however controversial, should be given some of the credit for these favorable outcomes.

The scheme, which rewards couples that agree to have just one child with cash bonuses and better access to housing, has proved so successful that the ‘birth rate of 1.4 children per woman has fallen below the replenishment rate of 2.1 children per woman that is needed to maintain the level of population.’ (Review, 2014).

This is not to deny the substantial, and in many cases immeasurable, costs of the policy. Experts are now concerned that China’s low birth rate, combined with its aging population, will damage it’s future economic development. Ageing population’s present countries, such as China, with exceptionally unstable dependency ratios, causing significant strain on the working population to support the elderly. Equally, uneven sex ratios have raised many concerns over the topic of gender inequality, as well as constructing a mass range of other issues such as marriage and reproduction concerns, due to the Chinese culture embedding the belief that males are the more dominant and successful offspring. Over time, this has created abnormal ratios of male: female births, creating deficits in the female population.

The inability for the Chinese to determine their family sizes, be pressurised into terminating second pregnancies, and to be denied from enrolling their second children into a school or accessing the healthcare system are just some examples of the emotional costs commonly experienced by Chinese inhabitants. These costs challenge measurement by those who have never suffered such problems.

Much of China’s economic growth has been attributed to its abundant and cheap workforce, combined with its low social costs. But, with the number of young Chinese falling and the number of elderly Chinese increasing, it is not certain whether China’s economy can continue to grow at the same rapid rate, and the Government is facing increasing calls to abandon its one child policy.

China has succeeded in creating a controversial yet arguably successful way of dealing with a massively expanding population. Perhaps Chinese authorities were right to implement the policy to quickly disband the growing poverty and inequality. Research recovered from 1978 to 1998 has proven that the lower the birth rate, the faster the economic growth. The annual growth rate of the real per capital income during this period was as high as 8.1 percent. At the same time, the birth rate was very low—at only 2 percent. Undoubtedly, the rapid drop in population growth has also created a better quality of life for the Chinese citizens. The policy has often been critiqued due to the extreme nature of the policy. It still remains somewhat unclear on whether there will be any radical reforms to the policy. The rising concerns over China’s aging population, the ever increasing male populations and the international concern over the infringement of human rights really begs the question of how long the Chinese government hopes to retain this one-child policy? China now faces a wave of new challenges to contend with.

References

Jane Golley Researcher, A. C. O. A. A. T. P. A. A. N. U. 2013. The costs and benefits of China’s one-child policy. [online] Available at: http://theconversation.com/the-costs-and-benefits-of-chinas-one-child-policy-20467 [Accessed: 27 Feb 2014].

Review, W. 2014. China Population 2013 – World Population Review. [online] Available at: http://worldpopulationreview.com/countries/china-population/ [Accessed: 27 Feb 2014].

China’s pollution: the sorry story of smog

21 Feb

Air pollution is a major environmental risk to health. Smog has been a longstanding issue in China. Residents of China’s capital, Beijing, have been warned to take precautions after air pollution readings soared. Readings on Thursday registered more than 20 times the recommended exposure levels by the World Health Organisation (WHO). This has posed serious threat to the country. Not only does it reduce visibility to just a few hundred metres, it also leaves the air smelling acidic and is dangerous to breathe in.

Officials advised people going to work to wear protective masks, and children and the elderly to stay indoors.

WHO guidelines say average concentrations of the tiniest pollution particles – called PM2.5 – should be no more than 25 microgrammes per cubic metre. On Thursday, official readings for PM2.5 at one point showed more than 500 microgrammes per cubic metre.

Another monitoring post at the US embassy said the pollution level was briefly more than 25 times higher than the amount considered safe by WHO.

So what is being done?

Beijing‘s mayor pledged Thursday to cut coal use by 2.6 million tons and set aside 15 billion yuan (2.4 billion dollars) to improve air quality this year as part of the city’s “all-out effort” to tackle air pollution, according to China‘s state news agency Xinhua. (Monitor, 2014)

The city also aims to ban all heavily polluting vehicles this year, cut new car registrations and promote new energy vehicles. Beijing reported 58 days of serious pollution last year, or one every six to seven days on average, Zhang Dawei, director of the Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Center told Xinhua. (Monitor, 2014).

China had also shut down 8,347 heavily polluting companies last year in northern Hebeiprovince, which has the worst air pollution in the entire country. Although the government has acted against the pollution to tackle the problem it has been a source of discontent to many business’ and even some populations, particularly of those becoming unemployed. High pollution levels have sparked widespread public anger and officials concerned about social unrest have responded by implementing tougher policies. Local authorities will block new projects and punish officials in regions where pollution is severe due to lax enforcement.

China has drawn up dozens of laws and guidelines to improve the environment but has struggled to enforce them in the face of powerful enterprises.

References

Monitor, T. 2014. China’s pollution: The desolation of smog?. [online] Available at: http://www.csmonitor.com/Environment/Latest-News-Wires/2014/0117/China-s-pollution-The-desolation-of-smog [Accessed: 21 Feb 2014].