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All About the Three Gorges Dam
Reports of recent flooding in southern China have claimed the torrential rains to be the most severe in scope and damage since 1998. As of July 28th, an estimated 2.9 million people have been relocated, and economic damages have climbed to $3.354 billion. In addition to reports of on the natural catastrophe however, the China Daily, China Post, and Reuters have also observed that the Three Gorges Dam is facing its biggest challenge to date: withstanding and ameliorating the flood waters in the region. Officials are currently expressing concern that a number of dikes in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangze River are susceptible to damage from the accumulating water pressure. Three Gorges Dam engineers have opened three sluice gates to “discharge some 32,000 cubic meters of water per second and another sluice gate to release floating objects.”
The Three Gorges Dam was originally proposed for construction in 1919 by Sun Yatsen as a major source of hydroelectric power on the Yangtze River. Nearly 90 years later, in 2008, the dam was completed, setting world records as the largest electricity-generating plant of any kind. In addition to this massive engineering feat however, has come much controversy. In 2007, the New York Times reported that the project set records not only as the largest power plant in the world, it is also the largest dam, the largest consumer of dirt, stone, concrete and steel ever and has even caused the one history’s largest human resettlement programs. With the official announcement to construct the dam in 1992, came an onslaught of “unusually visible domestic opposition”. Concerns ranged from the fully scientific to the social problems that the construction of such a large structure would create.
Below I have provided a brief summary of some of the concerns people have raised against the dam: (in no particular order)
1. Accumulation of concentrated regional water pollution from surrounding areas
The Three Gorges Dam serves as a giant reservoir that stores water flowing from water basins in southern China, which are infamous for being heavily polluted with municipal and industrial waste, in addition to huge amounts of agricultural fertilizers. In 2001, the People’s Daily reported on the measures being taken to improve waste management strageties by the Central Government in the dam areas and upper reaches of the Yangtze. However, in 2004, the same newspaper released another report stating that many implementations had still not taken effect, including the closing of many small industrial enterprises that grossly surpass wastewater effluent standards, such as the paper and leather industries. The report stated that of 242 large-scale enterprises in the area, 227 also failed to meet standards.
2. Ecological disruption for hundreds of native species
Damming the Yangtze River inevitably causes disruption for the hundreds of species that are native to the area, including the endangered Baiji River Dolphin whose only native habitat is the Yangtze River. Because of the dam, fish species are unable to reach their upstream spawning habitats, affecting their natural biological cycles. Other affected species include the Chinese Sturgeon, Chinese Tiger, Chinese Alligator, Siberian Crane, and the Giant Panda. Chinese law currently protects a total of forty-seven rare or endangered species in the Three Gorges Dam area.
3. Dislocation of millions of local residents and loss of cultural artifacts
A result of the flooding of 632 square kilometers of land (bringing the total surface area of the dam to 1,045 square kilometers), 1.3 million local residents had to be relocated to other areas. There have been many reports on the psychological, emotional, and economic effects of displaced residents because of the Three Gorges Dam construction. As the water level of the dam rose over 600 feet, entire villages, towns, and even cities were left completely underwater. Although the central government provided allocations for the involuntarily displaced residents, many had trouble in the transition from rural to urban life, many lost their livelihoods with their farmlands, and many suffered from psychological trauma as their ancestral homes of generations were lost. In many cases, fertile farmlands were swallowed up by the rising waters, and reapportioned land distributed to local farmers was by far inferior and difficult to cultivate than the original land. An estimated 1,300 archaeological sites are also reported to have been lost in the flooded area.
The Yangtze River (undammed) carries about 680 million tons of silt to the East China Sea every year, making it one of the most heavily silted rivers in the world. It is estimated that each year 0.5 billion tons of silt will be trapped behind the dam, decreasing the effectiveness of the dam to prevent flood control and increasing the height of riverbeds, and the possibility of secondary pollution from the release of harmful chemicals that may be carried with river silt.
5. Increased landslides and earthquakes
From the increased weight over the flooded area from the dammed water and accumulated silt.
6. The making of an obvious terrorist target
All these negative aspects and concerns over the dam however have not made it a complete failure though. The dam, the largest clean-energy power plant in the world, is a symbol and a realization of China’s commitment to reducing its dependence on coal. A shift from coal reliance will not only benefit China’s environment, it will also improve air quality and reduce acid rain in neighboring Japan and Korea. As China is the world’s largest producer of greenhouse gasses, and is expecting to have even greater energy needs as it continues to develop its economy, “going green” for fuel requirements is perhaps enough to outweigh the negative consequences of the dam.
In addition, the Three Gorges Dam has a positive effect on the navigation of the Yangtze River. Trade along the river has been reported to account for 80 percent of China’s inland shipping. Elevated water levels not only make it possible for larger ships to safely travel up and downstream, the dam also lessens the phenomenon of whirlpools that influence smaller local shipping companies. One local is quoted, saying: “The whirlpools were big back then. If your boat got caught in one, it would spin you around. Now the river’s easy to navigate. Honestly, a 15-year-old kid could steer a boat up it, no problem. There are no big waves anymore.”
The final major point that proponents of the Three Gorges Dam cite is that it will be able to ameliorate the effects of flooding of the area surrounding the Yangtze River. Beginning in the Han Dynasty, records show that in 2,300 years, there have been over 214 major floods in the area, averaging one every ten years. Almost like clockwork, the floods of 2010 are being called the worst since 1998, but now the difference is the presence of the largest dam ever built by man. The Three Gorges Dam has been estimated to be able to protect 15 million people and 1.5 acres of farmland. During flooding seasons, the water in the dam is regulated to a lower level to help receive floodwater from the surrounding areas. During dry season, the dam can also help mitigate the effects of drought upstream. Facing the current flood conditions of southern China, authorities are regulating the water levels in the dam to lessen the impact of the flood downstream.
Some relevant articles debating the strengths and weaknesses of the Three Gorges Dam include:
- Burton, Sandra. “Taming the river wild.” Time 19 Dec 1994.
- “Editorials: ASIA NEEDS DAMS: And yes-there are ways to minimize ecological damage” Asiaweek 15 July 1996.
The Hetch Hetchy Debate
The proposed Safe, Clean, and Reliable Drinking Water Supply Act of 2010 includes over $2.25 billion in funding for San Joaquin Delta sustainability and repair projects, as well as billions more for statewide water storage projects. To many in Southern California regions like San Diego, the bond measure is fantastic –more funding in the water system means that water-scarce regions will enjoy more abundant (and cheaper) water supply. For many in Northern California regions like San Francisco, the bond measure is less appealing –the bond would make wet cities pay for expensive water projects that benefit dry cities hundreds of miles away. This kind of conflict is inevitable in situations where pooled resources are spent on different groups (or “special interests” in political terms).
A full analysis of the bond and all its pros and cons is beyond the scope of this post, and perhaps such an analysis is impossible because the relationships and dependencies between different groups (i.e. the public and private sector, environmentalists and builders, the northern and southern residents) are often hard to identify objectively. Today, I want to look at a water issue that is closer to home and narrower in scope. Let’s look at the conflict over the Hetch Hetchy Valley reservoir in California’s Yosemite National Park. Studying a smaller water conflict allows us to circumvent the layers of complexity typical in a statewide water conflict and more easily see the details of a water policy debate.
The Hetch Hetchy Valley is a glacial valley in California’s Yosemite National Park. Essentially, it is a big rock bowl. John Muir visited the Hetch Hetchy valley in 1871 and later described the area as one of “Nature’s rarest and most precious mountain temples.” San Francisco would later dam the valley with the O’Shaughnessey Dam, completed in 1923. The once empty rock bowl is now filled with pristine water 300 feet deep.
From an engineering standpoint, the reservoir created by the O’Shaughnessey Dam is impressive. It is a notable project for the following reasons:
- The water from the reservoir is conveyed to San Francisco by gravity. The water conveyance system needs no additional energy inputs, unlike the system of pumps that brings San Joaquin Delta water to Southern California.
- Hydroelectricity generation from the O’Shaughnessey dam provides San Francisco with 20% of its electricity.
- The water from the O’Shaughnessey dam has “filtration avoidance” status; only minor treatment (addition of lime for corrosion control and chlorine for disinfection) is required before the city pipes the water to end-users.
- O’Shaughnessey Dam is large. It provides about 25% of the storage in the entire Hetch Hetchy Reservoir system.
From an environmentalist standpoint, the O’Shaughnessey Dam is a blight that has ruined part of Yosemite National Park. Old black-and-white photos of the Hetch Hetchy rock bowl before damming reveal a beautiful landscape. Groups like the Sierra Club and the Environmental Defense Fund support the idea of removing the aging O’Shaughnessey Dam and restoring the Hetch Hetchy to its former glory.
Removing O’Shaughnessey Dam, however, would require San Francisco to either find new water sources or cut its water use dramatically. Without the reservoir’s pristine water, the city would have to build energy-intensive water treatment plants to bring replacement water to drinkable standards. Furthermore, San Francisco would lose 20% of its electricity supply without generation from the dam.
The Environmental Defense Fund argues that because San Francisco is investing $3.2 billion in overhauling its water system, now is a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reassess the need for the [O’Shaughnessey] dam.” The San Francisco Public Utility Commission considered removal of the dam and concluded that it would cost about $10 billion for its removal and for construction of new water substitutes. Production of additional electricity to treat lesser quality water and replace lost hydropower will have other environmental costs that may outweigh the benefits of restoring the Hetch Hetchy Valley.
The debate over the Hetch Hetchy Valley pits environmental interests against urban interests. Newspapers around the country call for California to restore the valley so that Americans can once again enjoy its natural beauty. Like the larger scale water bond disagreement in California, the disagreement over the Hetch Hetchy involves many views on how natural resources should be utilized in a region.
Should a city spend $10 billion to enhance a national park by restoring an environment to its natural state? Restore Hetch Hetchy, one of the leading organizations in support of removing the O’Shaughnessey Dam, says that water from “Tuolumne river water stored in the Hetch Hetchy valley of Yosemite National Park can be stored elsewhere and delivered without interruption to its end users.” Where, exactly, is elsewhere? While Hetch Hetchy may be restored, another area’s ecological system may be utilized in its stead. San Francisco needs to get its water from somewhere, after all.
Everything that city and state governments do affects groups differently. In California, investment in the San Joaquin Delta system benefits farmers in the central valley and residents in Los Angeles, but it threatens some endangered fish species and forces Northern Californians to pay for Southern Californians’ massive delta withdrawals. Also, there are environmental groups on both sides of the debate; the Nature Conservancy and Audubon Society support the bond while the Sierra Club and the Planning and Conservation League oppose it. The complexity of the California water bond debate is shaped by numerous individual examples such as the Hetch Hetchy conflict. Even the smaller, regional Hetch Hetchy conflict involves huge differences in geographic, hydrological, social, and special interests.
I doubt the O’Shaughnessey Dam will be removed any time soon, but groups will continue to lobby for the restoration of Hetch Hetchy Valley. Meanwhile at the macro-level, the state continues to struggle with the water bond debate. Unless the bond is delayed until the 2012 ballot, voters will have to pick a side by November this year.
Containing the Oil Spill
BP has discontinued their calculations on the amount of oil exiting the well; they have handed this responsibility to the US government. Just yesterday, this taskforce announced that approximately 25,000 to 30,000 barrels of oil are flowing into the Gulf per day. On May 27, BP had estimated that anywhere between 12,000 and 19,000 barrels of oil were exiting the well per day. A month before that, the estimate was 5,000 barrels per day. The first estimate, given several days after the start of the spill, was a “mere” 1,000 barrels per day. 50 days after the oil spill, one could only hope that this number would start to decrease… not increase…
By studying the estimates given by BP, you will see that an almost perfectly (positive) linear relationship exists between the time that has elapsed and the magnitude of the flowrate. In fact, a 95% correlation exists.*
Last week, a containment cap was placed on the well to control the amount of oil exiting into the Gulf. The cap can capture 11,000 barrels per day. However, a large amount of oil is still escaping. The containment cap was designed to funnel the oil to a ship on the surface. Another containment system, which uses the pipes of a previously failed attempt to control the leak, directs more oil to an extra vessel. An additional method is supposed to be installed by the end of this month. This method is expected to withstand hurricane conditions.
The containment cap was lowered onto the failed blowout prevented (BOP) valve system on the seabed. The cap was placed on the lower marine riser package (LMRP) section of the BOP. On June 1, the damaged pipe which removes oil from the well, known as the riser, was cut near where it reaches the seabed. Undersea robots were used to cut through the riser close to the LMRP. After the riser was removed, the cap was lowered onto the LMRP, enabling the leaking oil to be funneled to the ship on the surface.
It is difficult to determine whether the cap is effectively working, mainly due to the lack of consensus regarding the magnitude of the spill. Currently, the total volume of oil that has escaped the well has been estimated to be anywhere between 20 million to 45 million gallons. The flowrate of oil leaving the well has fluctuated greatly and rapidly evolved – from an initial estimate of 1,000 barrels/day to a present estimate of 27,500 barrels/day.
Officials warned BP that cutting the riser may worsen the leak by 20%. Ira Leifer, an expert part of the government taskforce to determine the flowrate, believes that installing the containment cap has made the leak worse. Leifer claimed that the pipe is fluxing more than it previously did. BP has not made any claims as to whether the leak has worsened – they have merely claimed that their engineers are working to make the containment cap as efficient as possible.
Let’s say that cutting the riser did worsen the leak by 20%. The latest estimate by BP (approximately 27, 500 barrels/day) was released after the riser was cut. So according to officials, the exit rate of oil would have been approximately 4,580 barrels/day less, if the riser was not removed. However, the containment cap is projected to capture 11,000 barrels/day. Thus, the additional oil spewing out of the well from installing the containment cap is an additional sacrifice the Gulf of Mexico has to take.
However, we do not know if cutting the riser actually worsened the leak – just like the exit flowrate, there is no consensus on this matter either. BP has not made any statements on the efficacy of the cap. Some officials, including Leifer, believe that the cap worsened the spill by significantly more than 20%. The one thing that is certain about this oil spill is the amount of uncertainty it has produced. Oh, and of course, the amount of damage that it has caused, and will continue to cause.
Oil Pools near Barataria Bay on the Louisiana Coast
A permanent solution to the leak must be discovered soon. BP is digging two relief wells by the end of August. BP hopes that these wells will provide a permanent solution to the oil spill; again, it is uncertain whether they will be truly successful.
The spill has killed 11 humans; many birds and marine animals have either been severely injured or killed. A third of the federal waters of the Gulf remain closed to fishing. Admiral Thad W. Allen of the Coast Guard described the oil spill as “an insidious enemy that’s attacking our shores.” The oil spill has been called the nation’s worst environmental disaster. President Obama has claimed that if Tony Hayward, the chief executive of BP, worked for him, Hayward would have been fired for his poor handling of the oil spill.
* Calculated by plotting the estimated flowrate versus the number of days elapsed since the spill started. The estimates released on May 27th and June 10th were given as ranges. For the purpose of obtaining a correlation, the values were averaged to obtain an approximate flowrate of 15,500 barrels/day and 27,500 barrels/day respectively.
Calling all the dispersants!
Corexit still being used in the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has warned BP to discontinue the use of the dispersant Corexit. Corexit is manufactured by Nalco Co., a company which BP has “diplomatic relations” with. A dispersant is a chemical solution used to disintegrate oil into smaller and finer droplets. These microscopic droplets then sink into the water. Before the EPA’s recommendations, BP had already used 700,000 gallons on the surface and 115, 000 gallons underwater.
The EPA gave BP 18 alternative, less-toxic, dispersants to use on the oil spill. Some of these dispersants have been shown to be twice as effective. According to the EPA, Corexit is significantly more toxic than some of its competitors. It has also been found to be significantly less effective. In a test to determine effectiveness, the EPA found that 12 out of the 18 recommended dispersants were more effective on Louisiana crude oil than Corexit. Two of the 12 were found to be 100% effective. Corexit was found to be only approximately 59.5% effective.
BP has declined considering and testing other dispersants. Corexit has been called “a chemical that the oil industry makes to sell to itself,” by Richard Charter, the senior policy advisor for the organization, Defenders of Wildlife. Corexit was also employed in the clean-up of the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska’s Prince William Sound in 1989. Clean-up workers have suffered many health problems after, including a variety of kidney and liver disorders. These health problems have been attributed to the chemical 2-butoxyethanol, a known human carcinogen, found in Corexit.
Questions also arise on the effectiveness of using a dispersant at all for this oil spill. Dispersants are generally used to remove oil off the surface of water and to protect large quantities from reaching the shore. However, the source of the oil spill is located one mile underwater and 50 miles offshore. Due to the desperation of the situation, BP is forced to utilize such a large amount of dispersant.
An alternative to using dispersants is utilizing bioremediation to clean up the oil spill. In bioremediation, microbes are used to degrade the oil. The microbes work by breaking down hydrocarbons found in oil in the presence of oxygen and other nutrients. The microbes can degrade oil more efficiently if the oil was already broken down into smaller droplets. Corexit has already been applied to break down the mass amounts of oil. Now may be an optimal time to explore use of microbes. After the oil droplets sink beneath the surface, naturally occurring microbes break down the oil. Bioremediation can serve to complement naturally occurring oil degradation.
Toxicology expert, Dr. William Sawyer, has deemed Corexit as “deodorized kerosene.” He continued by saying that studies on kerosene exposure “strongly indicate potential health risks to volunteers, workers, sea turtles, dolphins, breathing reptiles and all species which need to surface for air exchanges, as well as birds and all other mammals.” BP has already accumulated a third of the world’s available dispersant supply. This has been the largest use of a chemical used to clean up an oil spill within the US. Hopefully the damage already done by Corexit is not as grave as predicted by the EPA and other officials.
Deepwater Horizon: Climate Change Impacts
Last Thursday marked the one-month anniversary of the Beyond Petroleum (BP) Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster in the Gulf of Mexico just 40 miles off the Louisiana coast. A pipe rupture 5,000 feet below the ocean surface is spewing out crude oil and natural gas at an unknown rate. The scientific community has produced spill rate estimates that range from 5,000 to 100,000 barrels of oil per day. BP, after repeatedly denying the importance of obtaining an accurate rate estimate, has finally agreed to post a live video feed of the leak to help third parties create estimates.
The indirect environmental cost of a disaster like BP’s spill is hard to quantify. State governments are quick to estimate economic losses from affected fishing and tourism, but what about the disaster’s immediate effect on climate change? In this post we will offer a few calculations to demonstrate the magnitude of the spill’s environmental impact.
- Last Thursday BP reported oil capture (via an interception tube) at a rate of 5,000 barrels per day, but soon afterwards revised the amount to 2,200 barrels per day.
- BP estimates that half of the volume spilling out of the deepwater rupture is comprised of natural gas. BP’s interception tube was able to capture 15 million cubic feet of natural gas in a 24-hour period last week in addition to its reported capture of 2,200 barrels of oil.
- A federal task force dubbed the “ Flow Rate Technical Team” will try to produce a scientifically credible estimate of the spill rate this week once it has had time to model the spill.
- Steven Wereley, associate professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue University, modeled the leak based on a video from BP. Last Wednesday, Wereley told the House Energy Committee that about 70,000 barrels were spewing out of the rig rupture each day (± 20%).
Most experts agree that the Deepwater Horizon spill is more severe than the Exxon Valdez tanker spill of 1989. Exxon Valdez spilled 10.8 million gallons over the surface of the ocean off the Alaskan coast. At the lower end of Wereley’s estimate, the Deepwater Horizon rig could be spilling 56,000 barrels (by volume) per day into deep ocean currents.
After subtracting a conservative 5000 intercepted barrels per day (BP’s highest reported capture rate) and assuming 50% of the spill volume is methane gas, the spill could release about 25,500 barrels of crude to the environment per day. At this rate it would take just over 10 days for the rig to spill the same volume released by the Exxon Valdez. Thirty-six days have passed since the spill first erupted.
Natural gas, an odorless and invisible gas, is difficult to intercept once released to the environment. At 5000 feet deep, the ocean pressure is about 140-150 times the air pressure at sea level. If half of the leaked volume is indeed natural gas as BP claims it is, we can calculate that 25,500 barrels of gas is released per day. At deep ocean pressure and temperature (145 atmospheres and an assumed 0 °C), this amounts to about 280 tonnes of natural gas released to the environment each day.* Natural gas has about 20 times the global warming potential of CO2 over a 100-year span.
The amount of CO2 equivalent to the natural gas leak (280 tonnes * 20 = 5600 tonnes CO2 per day) is emitted daily by 390,000 average American cars (MPG = 20.4, traveling 11720 miles per year). It would take over 140,000 tree seedlings grown for 10 years to sequester the carbon in 5600 tonnes of CO2. All equivalencies were calculated with US EPA equivalency calculator.
Today, BP engineers are preparing a “top-kill” procedure to plug up the leak. If top-kill is successful, the leak could stop as early as this week. Such a procedure is commonly performed to stop sub-surface oil leaks, but never at depths as great as the Deepwater Horizon rupture. We can only guess when BP will successfully stop the leak. A worst-case scenario offered by BP chief operating officer Doug Suttles projects leak stoppage in August of this year.
*This is calculated using the ideal gas law and a molecular weight of 16 grams per mole (methane), assuming that all natural gas is in gaseous form. At high pressures and low temperatures the ideal gas law becomes less reliable, but the equation errs in the conservative direction. Real gas law calculations with van der Waal’s constants for methane yield a mass flow rate about 50% higher than the 280 tonnes per day calculated with the ideal gas law.
Note: The back-of-the-envelope calculations in this article are based on estimates provided by BP and Professor Wereley of Purdue University. These quick calculations help us appreciate the scale of the disaster, but they are not offered as facts. If you have better calculations or find errors in ours, we welcome you to comment!
Mountian-Water Cities: Chinese “Eco-Cities”?
With the opening of the 2010 Shanghai World Expo perhaps some have noticed that amongst the many reports of the expo’s environmentally friendly facitlities and regulations and many environmental exhibits, one highlight has recently disappeared from the expo’s website and official publicity. The Dongtan Eco-city, originally widely publicized to international media as the “world’s first large-scale eco-city” and which was scheduled to complete construction before the expo, has disappointed many and caused some skepticism about the possibility of truly building “eco-cities” in China. Christina Larson, on Environment360 reports that a possible reason for the failure of eco-cities such as Dongtan in China is a misconnect between the (often internationally-designed) master plans and the actual fruition of the cities by developers and government. Worldchanging.com reported that Wired and BBC both allude to misunderstandings between the expectations of the Dongtan clients and the planning team.
However, despite the disappointments voiced in the international media about the failure of the realization of some Chinese “eco-cities”, there is also a new Chinese buzzword slowly gaining more popularity in both popular media and in architectural and urban planning circles: “Mountain-Water Cities” (山水城市) . According to Baidu Encyclopedia, the term “Mountain-Water City” was first coined in 1990 by Dr Xuesen Qian, a former professor at both Caltech and MIT, and highly recognized scholar and party member in China. Interestingly, he is most famous for his contributions to the missile and space programs in both the United States and China.
At a conference given last month in Beijing on Mountain-Water Cities (April 18, 2010), Qian described Mountain-Water Cities in the following way:
“There are mountains and water. We depend on rock and are accompanied by water. Both of these balancing elements should be clearly visible. The city should have an appropriate amount of forested area and green spaces, the right amount of rivers, streams and lakes, and enough natural ecology. The goal is to allow a city to possess a positive natural environment, life environment, and residential environment.”
From this description, the traditional balances of the Chinese conception of nature—water and mountain/rock—are present alongside and interwoven with human life. Qian stated that traditional forested parks are just one part of the concept of “Water and Mountain” (see my post on Water in Traditional Chinese culture”. “Water and Mountain” really stands for a much higher ideal: that man should find unity with nature, a principle first understood by classical Chinese poets and painters and deeply rooted in Chinese culture. “We should think of it like moving the beautiful landscape of those paintings right into our city” he said.
In addition to the presence of nature in a city, Qian emphasizes the importance of people’s livelihoods and of traditional Chinese architecture and lifestyle supported by scientific advancement. In a mountain-water city, social services and amenities should be accessible, and the unique characteristics of Chinese cities—courtyards, city gates, etc—should be integrated into a sustainable urban environment.
Though Dr. Qian is accredited to having first used the term “mountain-water city”, in recent years, the terms has been attributed to Dr. Hu Jie, the principal designer of the Olympic Forest Park in Beijing. After designing Olympic Forest Park, Dr Hu has gone on to realize some very important projects in China, is has been very excited to share his vision of the “mountain-water city” with the Chinese media.
After finishing the plans for the Olympic Forest Park, Hu designed two major projects (amongst others) that exhibit his commitment to the ancient philosophies regarding the balance of rock and water, and the unity of man and nature. The two major projects are the Tieling New City in Liaoning Province and Nanhu, Tangshan, Hebei Province. The design for Tieling New City mainly featured a man-made canal system with water diverted from Fan River into a wetland lotus park to serve as a recharge system for water resources. There were also green buffer zones to protects natural rivers from highways that cross at a man made lake called “Lake of Wishes”. Th soil displaced from the man made canals and lakes were used to build artificial mountains to shield the lotus wetland. His design of Lotus Lake International Wetland Park in Tieling won multiple awards from all over the world. Dr. Hu’s work can be seen all over China in successful projects from the master plan of Qinghai Province’s Kanbula Scenic Area to Fuzhou University’s new campus proposal.
Actually, the concept of a “mountain-water city” and an “eco-city” do not seem to differ much aside from perhaps the incorporation of traditional Chinese style and philosophy. But in many senses—their aim is the same—to integrate man’s environment with a more natural environment, to utilize natural resources in an efficient way, and to create better ways of living and healthier lifestyles. So why is it that recently it seems that there is a lot of media on foreign-led eco-city plans that fail in the end? The possibilities are endless—a question of selective reporting? A problem with the communication of expectations between designers and developers? A governmental red-tape problem? In the end though, we know that through the work of Qian Xuesen and Hu Jie, that Chinese concepts and versions of eco-cities have been carried out through construction and do exist.
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