Tag Archives: Dali

Report: “Mismanagement” stalling building projects across China

Work continues on the Darui Railroad in western Yunnan Image credit :cr8gc

Work continues on the Darui Railroad in western Yunnan. Image credit: cr8gc

Hundreds of highway and railroad projects are facing delays or otherwise running far behind originally envisioned construction timetables. This, according to a report issued by China’s National Audit Office, is a result of local governments improperly managing infrastructure funds — actions thought to have a direct effect on the country’s stalling economy.

In total, the audit of projects nationwide looked into 815 infrastructure programs across the country. More than 20 percent — 193 in total — were found “to be experiencing significant implementation lags due to a lack of funds or poor initial planning.” Together, the behind-schedule ventures represent government investment of 287 billion yuan (US$45.2 billion).

The architects of China’s economy have traditionally relied heavily on state-funded building projects as a means to revitalize the financial system in times of decline. Therefore, those lagging behind schedule due to mismanagement or misuse are seen as harming the economy in two ways, according to the audit. Not only are funds not being spent as quickly as they are authorized, but the benefits to localities through which new infrastructure projects pass must wait idly for any expected economic uplift.

In Yunnan, this is especially true in the province’s west. A railroad from Dali — traveling through Yongping, Baoshan, Mangshi and terminating at Ruili on the Burmese border — was originally expected to be completed in 2014. It will provide some of the most populated regions in western Yunnan direct rail access to Kunming for the first time ever. However, due to cost over-runs and awkward mountainous terrain, the line is now expected to open as late as 2019.

In an effort to speed up construction along the single-track Darui Railroad (大瑞铁路), Beijing injected a further five billion yuan (US$788 million) in annual funding for the endeavor beginning in 2012. The 335 kilometer railway is 75 percent tunnels and bridges, making for difficult surveys and slow progress, especially in places where engineers must dig under theGaoligong Mountains.

The railway was first conceived of in 1938 as a way to connect Kunming with the British colony of Burma. The outbreak of World War II scuttled those plans. However, they have since been resurrected as one part of the massive BCIM trade corridor, which Beijing hopes will one day provide an overland link between Kunming and seaports on the Indian coast some 2,800 kilometers away.

This post was originally published on GoKunming and written by Patrick Scally. It is reprinted here, in its entirety, with permission from the author. 

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Filed under China, Economic development, Governance, SLIDER, Yunnan Province

China initiates enormous Yangtze water diversion scheme

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Although not on the scale of the Grand Canal or the Three Gorges Dam, the waterways of Yunnan province are undergoing radical changes. This is especially true in the Three Parallel Rivers Protected Areas. In the name of “development” and “drought prevention”, a new project launched in the province will divert a stunning quantity of water away from the headwaters of the world’s fourth longest river.

Dignitaries and officials attended groundbreaking ceremonies for the Dian Zhong Water Diversion Project (滇中引水工程) on September 30 in Lijiang. Attendees oversaw the initial launch of a program that will divert an estimated 3.403 billion cubic meters of water annually away from the upper reaches of the Yangtze — known as the Jinsha River (金沙江). The ceremony was overseen by Provincial Party Secretary Li Jiheng (李纪恒), while a similar event was held simultaneously in Dali.

The water in question will be funneled southeast through naturally occurring rivers and lakes, first passing near the cities of Dali and Chuxiong before reaching Kunming, Yuxi and Honghe. The intended goals of the project include providing more water for municipal, agricultural and industrial use during times of drought. Of added benefit, according to local media reports, will be the influx of clean water into several lakes suffering from major environmental degradation.

Even though Yunnan as a whole is rich in water resources, the middle of the province is periodically crippled by drought. It is hoped by officials the Dian Zhong Water Diversion Project may avert future water shortages such as the five-year dry-spell between 2009 and 2014 that threatened millions of people and led to billions in lost revenue.

Lakes affected include Kunming’s Dianchi (滇池),Qilu (杞麓湖) near the city of Yuxi, and Yilong (异龙湖) in Honghe Prefecture. Dianchi in particular is an environmental nightmare, and for more than a decade has been covered in a thick, green film of algae rendering it’s waters useless even for industrial use.

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The provincial government has repeatedly thrown large sums of money at various Dianchi clean-up and “rehabilitation” efforts. Over the years such measures have included the introduction of invasive plant species, efforts to oxygenate the lake, and theconstruction of water treatment plants along tributary rivers and streams. Nothing has yet showed substantial success.

Two years ago, then-Provincial Party Secretary Qin Guangrong (秦光荣) outlined a new plan for Dianchi, one that would effectively “flush the lake clean” of pollutants and algae with water from the province’s northwest. The Dian Zhong Water Diversion Project appears to be based largely on Qin’s vision, although with a heavily modified and enlarged scope.

The project begins in Shigu (石鼓) — known in China as ‘the first bend in the Yangtze’. From there, an amount of water equivalent to 1,360,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools will be diverted away from the Jinsha River through man-made canals and underground pipelines connected to existing waterways, including the lakes mentioned previously.

Work on the 661-kilometer endeavor — which will not include the construction of any new dams — is expected to take eight years, with “long-term goals” realized by 2040. No cost estimates have yet been made public. Speaking at the ground-breaking ceremony held last month, Yunnan’s acting governor Chen Hao (陈豪), said “This is an exciting time, a time of dreams.”

This article written by Patrick Scally was first posted here on the GoKunming.com website.

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Filed under Agriculture, China, Environment and sustainability, Sustainability and Resource Management, water, Yunnan Province

Dali Old Town to charge entry fee

Dali Old Town; Image: Yereth Jansen

Dali Old Town; Image: Yereth Jansen

Dali, ancient seat of the Nanzhao Kingdom (南诏) and famed across China for its triumvirate of 1,200 year-old pagodas, will soon have an entry fee for tour groups. Beginning September 1, travel agents booking group trips to the city will be charged a one-time “maintenance fee”.

The 30 yuan per person charge will be added to the price of all group packages that include tours of Dali Old Town (大理古城). In addition to the fee, all companies operating within a 2.5 square kilometer “key protected area” of the old town will be charged a “preservation tax” equal to one percent of each businesses’ gross annual income. The entry surcharge for tour groups does not apply to those traveling independently or to locals living in the old town.

Money raised through the fee will be put towards historical preservation efforts and upgraded safety measures. Over the past four years, the Dali municipal government has reportedly spent 160 million yuan (US$25.8 million) on renovation and upkeep of older traditional buildings. However, more money was deemed necessary and instead of dipping into city coffers, officials decided to pass the cost on to visiting tourists. According to Dali’s Deputy Party Secretary, Yang Junbiao (杨军标):

Relying only on fiscal spending was insufficient as a means to maintaining Old Town. Requesting maintenance fees and asking for support from society at large will help fix the problem of [our] monetary deficiency and widen the availability of maintenance money. This is a useful way to protect and elevate Dali Old Town.

A similar fee was first discussed in 2009 but eventually put on hold until 2014. At the time, tour operators and local merchants strongly opposed establishing a surcharge and were also concerned with perceived transparency and oversight problems concerning how the money would be spent.

It appears some of these fears have now been alleviated, as the local government outlined its planned expenditures. Each year, Yang said in his announcement, two million yuan (US$322,000) will be put toward protecting and renovating historic buildings, with special focus on Bai minority residential structures. Also, a one-time outlay of 30 million yuan (US$4.8 million) has been earmarked for unspecified upgrades to the town’s fire protection infrastructure.

This last concern is being given high priority in old towns around the province following a January 2014 fire that destroyed much of Shangri-la in northwest Yunnan. The blaze raged for 14 hours and razed hundreds of traditional homes and businesses, highlighting the need for more serious fire precautions in similar historic towns composed almost entirely of interconnected wooden buildings.

This article was originally posted here on GoKunming by Patrick Scally.

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Filed under China, Yunnan Province