Liu Yalou's former residence before demolishment. Image:legaldaily.com
The notice board of the protection site for immovable relics.
A few years ago it came to my attention that the local government in Shenzhen had tried to preserve and enhance the cultural heritage of the old walled city of Nantou built from 1394. Stating that the last remaining historic buildings there were to be protected and a master plan drawn up for restoration of the historic district, the village inhabitants immediately got to work in destroying the very heritage to be protected. Their concerns lay with the potential loss of revenue from not being able to redevelop their properties, many of which had already been flattened and new housing of 6 or 8 stories high quickly established as low cost worker accommodation. Both the government and the residents were ignorant of the difficult collaborative processes needed to ensure protection where the potential long term advantages of maintaining cultural heritage are not immediately apparent to the poorly educated land owners.
A similar case seems to have appeared in Harbin this month, where the lines of communication between parties has been opaque, responsibilities not clearly defined and the huge opportunities afforded by maintaining cultural heritage failed to be understood.
Tea plantations in Fujian threaten natural ecology. Image: xinhuanet.com
Meanwhile the strong environmental initiatives outlined in the 13th 5 Year Plan earlier this year are starting to be implemented. The penny has dropped that only balanced development, coupled with strong protection of valuable environmental resources, makes both economic and social sense. China is hugely rich with valuable natural assets and resources, however large areas have been seriously degraded over recent years with unrestrained development undertaken that has severed important natural corridors, destroyed ecological systems and upset the balances that prevent environmental disaster such as erosion, landslip and flooding. The processes of mapping and highlighting no-go areas for development, both at the micro and macro scale, remain essential.