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在线翻译:
szdaily -> Opinion
Smooth out NIMBY syndrome
    2017-May-22  08:53    Shenzhen Daily

Wu Guangqiang

jw368@163.com

EARLY this month, some 400 residents in Qingyuan City of Guangdong Province mounted a protest against the construction of a proposed incinerator. The event has rekindled public attention to the emerging nimbyism in China.

NIMBY, short for “Not In My Back Yard,” refers to opposition by residents to a proposal for a new development close to their neighborhood, insisting that the project poses potential threat to the environment of the community and health of the residents.

More and more residents are joining the army of Nimbys around the world in the belief that developments may be necessary for society, but should be further away.

Typical developments boycotted by Nimbys in developed countries include incinerators, power and chemical plants, landfill sites, prisons and even orphanages and nursing homes.

The booming nimbyism cuts both ways. On the one hand, the awakening of civil rights awareness is conducive to the rule of law and environmental preservation. On the other hand, excessive and indiscriminate objection of developments hinders economic and social progress.

NIMBY protests have been on the rise in China over the past few years. The first reported large scale protest occurred in Xiamen, a coastal city in Fujian Province, in 2007.

Local residents vehemently opposed the building of a massive paraxylene (PX) chemical plant in Haicang District for its potential threat to public safety and health. The mass protest eventually compelled the local government to suspend the project and later relocated it to Zhangzhou, a city 60 km from Xiamen.

It was reported that two major blasts took place at the PX plant in Zhangzhou in the two years after its completion. This proved that the public concern was not groundless, especially since the project was to be in close proximity to residential areas.

Xiamen citizens’ triumph encouraged people in other parts of the country and protests against all sorts of developments swept across the country in the following years. According to media reports, at least 15 mass protests occurred, chiefly against the construction of petrochemical projects and incinerators, including three mega PX projects in Dalian in Liaoning, Ningbo in Zhejiang, and Maoming in Guangdong.

Some protests turned into clashes between protesters and the authorities. In May 2014, local residents in Yuhang District of Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang Province, gathered to oppose the construction of a waste incineration power plant, which evolved into violent clashes.

The surging NIMBY movement has left governments at various levels in a bind; they are torn between the mounting pressure to boost the local economy and tackle urban woes such as waste disposal and the strong public opposition against the developments.

For cities that are troubled with a shortage of land, the dilemma of construction, especially that of potentially environmentally damaging projects, seems unsolvable.

Take Shenzhen for example. The explosive urban expansion and population explosion are swallowing up all available land while all rubbish landfills are close to being filled up. Unless incinerators are built, the city will be besieged and buried by garbage. But any site for such a project may be met with popular objection.

Clearly, the tendency of local governments to address NIMBY concerns in an ad hoc manner will only create more problems rather than solutions. Institutional and comprehensive measures must be taken to respond to public interests while proceeding with necessary projects.

All projects must go through full legal procedures for approval. Public participation mustn’t be absent in environmental assessment. Most importantly, the interest of local residents must be protected and compensation be made to make up for the losses of stakeholders.

Hangzhou authorities have set a good example. After the mass protest against the construction of the plant, the local government went to great lengths to persuade the residents to better understand the project.

The government invited over 4,000 local people to visit advanced and eco-friendly plants in other places, thus dismissing their concerns about pollution.

As well, the municipal government allocated 1,000 mu (6.67 hectares) of land to boost local development. The district government also appropriated large amounts of funds to help villagers improve their economic and environmental situations.

Having benefited, rather than suffered, from the project, local residents not only have accepted the project as planned, but they are anticipating a better life ahead.

Where there is harmony, there is a way.

(The author is an English tutor and freelance writer.)

 

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