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Note from China: The Gansu floods are manmade

From Paul French, Ethical Corporation china editor in Shanghi:

A follow up from a column earlier this year and the current Gansu floods

In the interest of follow up on previous columns and articles it’s probably worth noting the arguments that are swirling around the tragic and devastating Gansu floods.

Chinese TV is running its usual coverage of a nation coming together against the elements with PLA soldiers hard at work etc etc. The floods are presented as a natural disaster. But they aren’t; they’re manmade.

Back in May I wrote a column about the terrible drought in five of China’s south-western provinces – Yunnan, Guizhou, Guangxi, Sichuan and Chongqing.

Then the Chinese state media told the people it was a natural disaster too – but, as my column noted, it was also in part due to logging, development and, particularly, the mass planting of eucalypti.

Gansu is the opposite of a drought – floods that have killed over 1,000 people with hundreds missing. Wen Jiabao rushes in, TV runs emotive coverage, the soldiers are deplotyed to fight this natural disaster.

But, according to many including Wen Bo of the China programme of the San Francisco-based Pacific Environment, a conservation group, decades of excessive logging in the Zhouqu area has reduced the vegetation that can prevent landslides and so the situation this year is significantly exacerbated.

China’s China’s minister of land and resources shot back that it was geological but Fan Xiao, a Sichuan (and brave!) geological survey engineer, told the provincial government’s news website that forest destruction, farmland expansion and overdevelopment of hydroelectric power stations should share the blame.

And others have spoken out too – Chinese botanist Jiang Gaoming told the Global Times newspaper last week (a staunchly nationalistic Chinese newspaper) that vegetation damage, land reclamation and hydropower stations had all worsened flooding on the Yangtze River this year.

Severe drought in western China in the spring; raging floods in the summer in Gansu – opposite ends of the climactic spectrum but the one common thread – both manmade – and many in China it would seem believe that ignoring that fact will mean nothing more except future seasons of ‘natural disasters’ plaguing China.

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