(September 15, 2011) In this installment of Weibo Watch: hundreds of rivers and dams dry up, Poyang Lake continues to shrink, Beijing Zoo’s new amusement park draws an angry response, and complaints about mining in Tibetan culture’s holy mountains fall on deaf ears.
August 27 to September 7: Xinhua News agency reported that Yunnan province, Guizhou province and Chongqing Municipality are each facing severe drought. Four hundred and forty small and medium-sized rivers and 870 small dams have dried up, 6,036,000 people are affected by the drought, and 1,483,000 people are having difficulty accessing drinking water. Netizen @事实关注V posted a poignant photo to show the effect of the tragedy.
@环评爱好者网官方, the official Weibo account of EIAFans (a website for discussing environmental impact assessments) also posted a photo on September 7 showing the effect of the drought at Poyang Lake. Its caption said: “Poyang Lake faces severe drought again, due to persistently below normal precipitation levels and declining water levels in the Yangtze River.
According to the Jiangxi Province Flood Protection Bureau’s statistics, the water level in Poyang Lake has been continuously falling, causing the area of the lake to shrink by half, and the volume of water to decline to a mere 20% of historical volumes. The low water period began two months earlier this year than normal.” 【鄱阳湖再次遭遇严重干旱】受降水持续偏少及长江水位偏低等因素影响，鄱阳湖再次遭遇严重干旱。来自江西省防总的最新统计分析数据显示，鄱阳湖水位仍在继续下降，鄱阳湖水体面积不及历史同期一半，而水量更是仅剩历史同期两成，较正常年份提前两个月呈现枯水状态
August 30 to September 1: Chinese Internet users discovered new plans for an amusement park at the Beijing Zoo. Netizen @呐喊还是怒吼？posted a protest poster including a leaked meeting summary of construction plans for a new amusement park at Beijing Zoo: “Strongly protest the Beijing Zoo moving more than 400 trees and using 18,000 square meters of green lands to build a mega-amusement park in the zoo. Oppose this idea. No matter who made the decision, no matter who participates in the project, all are guilty. Don’t say you have to do it. Stop immediately before damage is done!”
The post provoked an angry response to the plan. The public worried about the low survival rates of transplanted trees, the loss of green lands, noise disturbing the animals, poor animal welfare, over-commercialization and the rent-seeking[i] power of Zoo officials.
Again, on September 1, Green Beagle called on the public to use their mobile phones “to take photos of the Zoo cutting trees in order to build its amusement park.” Netizens discovered more than they expected. On September 3, a Legal Evening Post report confirmed that a company owned by Lin Chen, a zoo official, is occupying the former residence, Changchuntang, of the Min Dynasty revolutionary leader Song Jiaoren, which is located in the zoo. According to Feng Yongfeng’s posts, the company is also in charge of the construction and management of the amusement park, and will receive a major part of its profits.
August 24 to September 3: Several sources reported different mining problems in Ordos (Inner Mongolia), Meri Snow Mountain (Yunnan), and Gangs Ri Ma Chen Snow Mountain (Qinghai). Meri Snow Mountain and Gangs Ri Ma Chen Snow Mountain are two of the four holy mountains in Tibetan culture.
Wang Yongchen posted a photo from her Yellow River Ten Years Trip revealing mining problems in Ordos. The CEO of Jingdong Shopping Hall, one of the most successful online shopping companies in China, @京东刘强东 added: “Last time I went to cross Badain Jaran Desert (in Inner Mongolia), land was being destroyed on a large scale, including in Wuhai. I said: the land can not recover in 50 years.” A Wuhai local official said: “The land can never recover. It is not that the local officials don’t know how severe the consequences are: It is that local officials in such a working environment cannot make independent decisions.” 上次去穿越巴丹吉林沙漠，包括乌海在内，大片土地损毁。我说：这样50年都恢复不了，乌海本地一个官员说：永远恢复不了！不是官员不知道后果严重，只是身在江湖……
Local Jiangpo residents in Yunnan Meri Snow Mountain area complained of the negative impacts of Meri Snow Mountain mining on their daily lives, their farming, the safety of their homes, dust pollution and more. Netizen @雪山神木 reported: “The Plateau Mining Resources Company Ltd. has been mining in Deqing since 2003, having a huge impact on the lives of local residents. I really don’t know how its environmental impact assessment was passed. The Deqing County government intervened once. The company was fined 200,000 RMB for its violations by the county’s public security bureau. But they continue to mine and the destruction continues too. Who benefits from this punishment?” #关注德钦江坡开矿# 高原矿业资源有限公司自2003年在德钦开矿以来，给当地百姓生活造成巨大影响，真不知当时的环境影响评价是如何做的？另外德钦县人民政府出面调解过一次，县公安局对高原矿业公司的违规行为罚款20万元，矿依然在开，破坏依然在继续，这样的处罚对谁有好处？
Environmentalists are drafting public letters to the Yunnan Land and Resources Department Chief, and to the Deqing County government, Yunnan.
On September 1, Yang Fangyi @杨方义, Climate Change project director at the Shan Shui Conservation Center, posted: “I wrote petition letters to the Yunnan provincial CCP committee and the government’s online petition office. I checked again today on the status of my petition letters – the Diqing District petition office is working on them. Maybe in 20 days I’ll receive an answer like: “That issue is dealt with by the Deqing County government. Thank you for your support for petition work.[ii] #关注江坡开矿#在云南省委，省政府网上信访办填写了信访函，今日查询，状态是 还在 迪庆州信访办办理。或许20天后，我会收到这样的答复函：此事以交
[i] When a company, organization, or individual uses their position to obtain an economic gain from others without reciprocating any benefits back to society through wealth creation. An example of rent-seeking, according to Investopedia, is when a company lobbies the government for loan subsidies, grants or tariff protection. These activities don’t create any benefit for society, but simply redistribute resources from the taxpayers to the special-interest group.
[ii] Deqing County is under the Diqing District’s administration, and the Diqing District is under Yunnan Province. In most cases, petition offices don’t solve any problems; they just kick balls to other departments.