China’s economic growth may be slowing for the first time in decades, but its air pollution is still going gangbusters. The city air is choked with fine particulates, and experts are projecting 3.6 million global deaths due to air pollution by 2050, many of them in China. The country announced this week it would be investing $56 billion in cleaning that up over the next three years, in part to appease, as Reuters reports, “increasingly prosperous urban residents.”
Henry Paulson, the former Goldman Sachs CEO and treasury secretary who became the face of the 2008 economic collapse, has some advice for this newly struggling China. Paulson says the country’s potential “is stifled by traffic and pollution.” From The New York Times:
By adopting a new approach to urbanization, its leaders can assure more balanced investment, address a major source of debt, achieve a consumption windfall and clean up the country’s environment. Otherwise, China’s economic and environmental problems will worsen, with vast implications for the rest of the world …
A flawed system of municipal finance is driving debt, corruption and dissent, while unsustainable urban planning has yielded polluted cities that are destroying China’s ecosystem. Yet China’s future requires continued urbanization, which, absent a new approach, will only make the problem worse.
Cities can, however, be part of the solution: better urban policies can put China on a healthier path forward, economically and environmentally.
Hey, you know what sounds like a better urban policy to me? Destroying 700 mountains! From The Guardian:
In what is being billed as the largest “mountain-moving project” in Chinese history, one of China’s biggest construction firms will spend £2.2bn to flatten 700 mountains around Lanzhou, allowing development authorities to build a new metropolis on the northwestern city’s far-flung outskirts …
The first stage of the mountain-flattening initiative, which was first reported on Tuesday by the China Economic Weekly magazine, began in late October and will eventually enable a new urban district almost 10 square miles in size to be built.
Yes, of course. This city is so dirty — let’s make it bigger!
Lanzhou, home to 3.6 million people alongside the silty Yellow River, already has major environmental concerns. Last year, the World Health Organisation named it the city with the worst air pollution in China. The city’s main industries include textiles, fertiliser production and metallurgy.
Liu Fuyuan, a former high-level official at the country’s National Development and Reform Commission, told China Economic Weekly that the project was unsuitable because Lanzhou is frequently listed as among China’s most chronically water-scarce municipalities. “The most important thing is to gather people in places where there is water,” he said.
Where once there were 700 mountains and no water, there shall now be this megalopolis. Wait through the ad on this video and you will be graced with the Lanzhou developer’s vision for this future city, from trees to light rail to oil refinery. I’m not sure if I am supposed to excited or so, so scared.
Yeah, I’m gonna go with scared.