Blog for Environmental Health Class   Leave a comment

Over the past several months I have not been able to post to the blog I started after first arriving in Chengdu for the Fulbright.  I am not sure what the problem was but now I am able to access the site.  I have been blogging to a class through the University of Louisville and I will include that blog at this site. I will also try to add other information, photos, ect to this site as the term progresses. I have posted a few photos of meetings I have recently been to and places I have visited.  Tobacco control is a major challenge here and one of the more interesting Fulbright stories was from a student who was trying to do a survey of local residences about tobacco use in a rural area.  His first attempt to do the survey was a failure because no one would participate.  He talked to his adviser who suggested they have a dinner with gifts for the local officials.  The dinner worked, but the adviser recommended that among the gifts they include cigarettes (a very common and welcome gift in China).  Sure enough, when he went back the following week to deliver the survey, everyone was willing to participate.  Tobacco control is a major challenge.  One of the photos I have included is of a restroom at Kunming University.  Please note the tile ashtray by the urinal.  The other ‘public health’ photo is of a mosquito net at the foreign visitors residence when I was visiting Jinan University in Guangzhou.

The first blog to the class was focused on ecosystem services and how they play a role in environmental health.  The blog follows with some questions for thought:

Recently it was reported in the Chinese press that 62% of the Yellow River Basin was impacted by soil erosion.  The report said nearly 90 percent of areas in the country that are suffering from severe water and soil erosion are in the Yellow River basin, making it one of the most-eroded areas in the world.  From 1950 to 1999, more than 9 billion tons of mud and sand flowed into the lower reaches of the Yellow River, raising the riverbank by 2 to 4 meters.  Some improvements have been made. The latest statistics showed that during the period of the 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-2010), more than 2 billion tons of mud and sand had been prevented from flowing into the river, helping to improve conditions for plant and human life in the river basin.

On a broader scale, the total area affected by water loss and soil erosion amounts to 3.57 million square kilometers (convert this to acres), almost one third of China’s total land, and of this, nearly 2 million sq km are in urgent need of treatment. The annual economic losses from water loss and soil erosion are estimated at about 2.25 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). Despite the government’s efforts at the national regional, provincial, and local levels much remains to be done regarding awareness and actions the local governments have taken to conserve water and control soil erosion.

Vast parts of China’s interior are mountainous.  China’s rapid economic development has resulted in activities, such as mining mineral resources, that have progressed without robust regulatory controls and have resulted in disasters such as mudslide and floods. Mudslides in Zhouqu in Northwest China’s Gansu province and Gongshan in Southwest China’s Yunnan province have sounded the alarm about soil erosion.

A recent new Chinese law on Water and Soil Conservation (2010) specifies the responsibilities local governments and the penalties that will be imposed should they fail to meet them. The law increases the accountability of local government officials for water conservancy and soil erosion control and requires those local governments whose territories are vulnerable to soil erosion to set specific targets to keep soil from being washed away because of the loss of trees and grass. Punishments will be enforced if the targets are not met. The maximum fine for those who violate the regulations has been increased from 200,000 yuan to 500,000 yuan (6.5 yuan/$). The law also stipulates that profits from extracting soil, sand and rocks in places vulnerable to the loss of soil and water will be confiscated once they are identified. The first law on water and soil conservancy was adopted in 1991. The Ministry of Water Resources administers the revised law in China.

Some Discussion Questions:

  1. What do we mean by ecosystem services? Note the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment a United Nations initiative was designed to assess the consequences of ecosystem change for human well-being and the scientific basis for action needed to enhance the conservation and sustainable use of those systems and their contribution to human well-being.  The following links to the website for this assessment.
  2. How does erosion impact ecosystem services?
  3. How do ecosystem services impact public health and specifically how would erosion impact public health?
  4. Where in the U.S. is erosion a problem? In Kentucky?
  5. How is erosion managed in the United States?
  6. Does the U.S. have penalties associated with erosion control?

Posted February 22, 2011 by uolrrj in Uncategorized

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