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Vanity projects harmful for the environment

China Daily | Updated: 2021-01-27 07:38

The Ministry of Ecology and Environment recently criticized some local governments for their "great leap forward" style of landscaping campaigns, and pompous environmental modification projects that actually defy the laws of nature.

For instance, to create a picturesque landscape, the governments of some drought-stricken regions have dug artificial lakes. Similarly, to present exotic charm, a city government in the north has dotted the place with tropical plants. To clean rivers, some local governments have been cementing riverbeds and banks, not realizing that by doing so they are ruining biodiversity and the ecosystem. Some government authorities light up landmark buildings throughout the night to showcase prosperity.

Behind these projects are some local officials' enthusiasm to show off their achievements and get promotions. However, most of these projects are not only unsustainable, but also capable of continuing to harm the ecology even after they are scrapped.

For instance, a county south of the Maowusu Desert in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region has been planting trees since the 1980s to combat desertification. The trees made the county a model for desertification prevention and control campaigns, but they also caused irreversible ecological damage by draining the dozens of lakes in the county of their water. The not-yet-rich county is now spending tens of millions of yuan every year to water this environmental "legacy".

In some economically backward regions, local governments have just about enough funds for improving basic public services and not for preserving the environment. The only investment and industrial projects they attract are often those that are no longer welcome in the better-off regions because of the environmental costs involved.

In a nutshell, balancing development and environmental protection remains a challenge for governments in underdeveloped regions.

Apart from supporting these regions to develop their economy, the central authorities can provide more professional guidance and special funds to help ensure that the environment is not damaged for short-term economic gains.

Also, government watchdogs and auditing departments must ensure government funds are properly used in environment-related projects, the effects of which should be assessed by third-party agencies. Those officials taking advantage of environmental and urban renovation projects to embezzle public funds, or those wasting public funds on vanity projects must be held accountable.


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