To establish an Environmental Trust instead of demolishing the 39 buildings on Haihua Island | Zhou Jinfeng Talks about Ecological Civilization (138)

In many places in the country now, once there are illegal practices harming environment, the most frequent thought is to demolish the related facilities. But in fact, the demolition of 39 buildings on the coastline, on Haihua Island, is obviously a big project. According to national regulations, an environmental impact assessment (EIA) must be done for such a large project. Then the local order to demolish a series of buildings in just ten days or so is undoubtedly not feasible – to do an EIA, ten days is not enough.

The first thing to do for such a big project is to do an EIA. It should be a scientific, systematic and comprehensive assessment. It is to evaluate the impact of the project on the environment, rather than a decision that we can make with a simple thought.

The second point, which can be said with 100% certainty, is that the project has caused significant damage to the environment. Why? Traditionally, the concept of “environmental damage”, in most people’s opinion, refers to the pollution of the environment, and the second category refers to the change of the local ecological environment, such as the construction of an island in this place, so the fish cannot swim smoothly in the local environment, which brings environmental damage to this place. Currently, not enough attention is paid to this type of environmental damage.

From the second point of view, the construction of 39 buildings on the island, including steel, cement, construction, water and electricity …… all this means a very heavy environmental cost.

We know that the production of cement is the main culprit of carbon emissions. In the process of steel production and construction, if the building material is put into use, then the building material is a burden to the environment, but it provides something that people need to live and produce, and this is a cost replacement. However, if we demolish all the buildings, then the cost to the environment is absolutely negative and a serious damage.

So, the first point is that these buildings, even without a deep, detailed, comprehensive environmental assessment, we already know that the complex will cause significant damage to the environment. So one of the principles we need to maintain about what has already happened is that conservation is the greatest environmental protection. If the relevant government departments demolish these buildings and hundreds of thousands of square meters of buildings are razed to the ground, then this is the greatest damage to the environment.

The second point is that the huge piles of garbage that would be created by doing so would create a serious garbage storage problem. We know that garbage, including construction waste, is likewise a huge cost to the environment. Humans no longer have enough land space to store the garbage created by humans. So based on these two points, the demolition of buildings is bound to have a huge cost to the environment and we are against it.

But some environmental organizations told us that they demolition plan persisted for a long time, and in 2020, one of the environmental organizations related to us is still writing: this environmental inspection and rectification in Hainan is not complete, so why is it not demolished yet? And we don’t have the same opinion as them. We are against the demolition. Why? Although from the starting point demolition work is good – demolition is a kind of resolute negation of this wrong initiative, a kind of wake-up call, a value we recognize and support; however, the cost of demolition work for the environment, two points have been mentioned above, in fact there is a third point, a fourth point, not one and the same.

We are against demolition, but we believe that:

First, it should be confiscated in its entirety and should no longer be held by the original developer of the project works, nor should it be owned by the local government that supports this development project. All of it should be confiscated, and the penalty should be doubled. All the money that the developer got from the sale of this building should be confiscated. Now that some buildings have been sold, if they are demolished, it adds more difficulties and conflicts. The people who bought the building are innocent; so, can the developer give the full amount of compensation to the purchasers of the building? Regarding compensation, the money an innocent mass spent back then is again not the same as the value of RMB now. So how can these things be measured? How can so many innocent people get the most effective solution? We believe that it should not be demolished and that the masses who bought the house are innocent and they should hold it. However, all the amount of money from the sale of the house should be taken out.

Secondly, the above confiscation is only part of the amount of the house sold. All the properties of the remaining 39 buildings, as well as all the income from the sale of the houses, i.e., the entire production value, should be confiscated; also, there should be an additional penalty, i.e., a fine.

Second, the above confiscation is only part of the amount of the sale of the property. All the properties of the remaining 39 buildings, as well as all the proceeds from the sale of the properties, i.e., the entire production value, are to be confiscated; at the same time, there are additional penalties, i.e., fines.

What if the developer’s ability to compensate is limited? Then, the state needs to have further long-term accountability mechanisms, including for EIA units and EIA experts. The EIA unit’s EIA fees should not only be recovered, but also confiscated as well as penalized. On this point, the relevant environmental laws are provided for, with specific multiples of penalties. If all these funds come together, it should be possible to set up a public trust.

Our country has a very successful experience in doing public trusts. After setting up a public interest trust, it can bring great wealth to our country. Through the public benefit trust, all stakeholders, especially representatives of public environmental interests and scientific institutions, will participate and operate the public benefit trust together. This will be an astronomical amount of money, the public benefit trust can attract hundreds of billions of dollars of investment, and the output value it brings, will grow further.

Likewise, if there is an environmental trust worth hundreds of billions of dollars, it would be even more beneficial to the conservation efforts of the entire Hainan Island and the entire surrounding marine life. Not to mention the hundreds of billions, even if there were 10 million, the environmental trust could have a huge, positive impact. If hundreds or hundreds of billions of dollars worth of environmental trusts are involved, then it will play a very big role in ecological environmental protection and ecological civilization construction.

We have noticed that environmental restoration projects have started around Haihua Island, but one thing I would like to remind is that environmental restoration projects, still have to do environmental assessment. For example, we have seen in the past that in Hebei Province, there is a large-scale artificial sea grass bed restoration project, but after our fieldwork and research, we found that it is wrong. In the case of Haihua Island, is it okay to plant coral? The answer is yes. However, planting coral does not mean just planting it. From species, to site selection, to scale, and a host of other things, an assessment has to be done. It is definitely the right thing to do if we have such an environmental trust to maintain, improve, and restore the environment in and around Haihua Island to get the maximum effect of the community of human destiny and the community of life on earth.

Whether we do it successfully or unsuccessfully this time, we will insist, advocate, and demand the establishment of an environmental trust. This is something that must be implemented, and it must be done.

Then, based on the natural conditions of the area, if the 39 buildings of Haihua Island are disposed of as the authorities requested, it will be a destruction. The demolition work is the second destruction, which is even more wrong. We think we should ask national as well as international experts to discuss this issue together as a way to do the best restoration work and to expand the geographical impact area again. Considering that the size of this environmental trust fund is large enough, it is only right to carry out biodiversity conservation in a larger sea area and set a similar theme to support social organizations, scientists, and local governments as a way to build ecological civilization.

(This is not a word for word translation.)

Original Chinese Article:



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