In Restoring Bohai Environment, What China Can Learn From the U.S.?11-15 13:44 Caijing
By staff reporters Gao Shengke and Xu Jing
A special working group led by the U.S. government completed a draft plan on Oct. 5 aimed at recovering the marine ecological environment in the Gulf of Mexico after an oil spill devastated the region over one year ago. The plan was made public for comments Oct. 26.
The draft plan put forward several programmatic goals including restoring water quality, and replenishing and protecting local marine and coastal biological resources. It also calls for a bold and large-scale ecological restoration project, and proposes that the cost of the project be covered by the pollution fine British Petroleum (BP) paid after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill incident.
The plan stresses “cooperation between the federal government and state governments,” stating explicitly that governments share the responsibility to restore the ecosystem at the Gulf of Mexico. The aim is to help members and institutions break up the barriers and make full use of scientific knowledge as well as financial resources, hence facilitating implementation of the ecological restoration program and adjustments to the program.
Enhancing the community's ability to resist risks is one of the four key goals of the draft plan. This goal has caught the attention of entrepreneurs, scientists and governments; moreover, local residents are actively engaged in achieving it.
China can learn from the United States’ plan. Although there are mostly tropical organisms in the Gulf of Mexico while temperate organisms prevail in Bohai Bay, the two regions face a similar crisis. Back in June 2011, a major oil spill accident happened at platforms B and C in the Penglai 19-3 oilfield. By Nov. 2, signs of oil seepage were still detected. This incident represents a fatal blow to the already fragile ecosystem in Bohai Bay.
Wang Yamin, associate professor at Marine College, Shandong University at Weihai, stated that in terms of the amount of spilled oil, the accident in Bohai Bay is less serious than that in the Gulf of Mexico; however, in terms of long-term influence, the Bohai Bay accident is more severe. The Gulf of Mexico is broad and the stream there is strong, hence it is easier for it to recover from the oil spill; in contrast, the Bohai Sea is a semi-enclosed inland sea where water exchanges are slow.
The oil spill accident at Penglai has directly affected the interests of fishermen and marine farmers along the Bohai Bay. The Gulf of Mexico is vast, so marine farmers can relocate to other parts of the region; conversely, the Bohai Bay is already crowded with marine farmers who are finding it difficult to switch to other means of livelihood as fisheries there become depleted. China should consider these practical issues related to people's livelihood when managing its marine ecosystem.
Wang Shicheng, a well-known marine expert, contended that China could follow the example of the U.S.’s draft plan to establish a fund earmarked for restoring the Bohai Sea ecosystem. The fund would mainly consist of ecological compensation and reparation funds; in addition, the central government could allocate some financial resources. The fund should mainly be used to restore the Bohai Sea ecosystem and to resolve issues related to the livelihood of residents nearby, said Wang.
ConocoPhillips China announced Sept. 2 on its official website it would set up a fund designated for dealing with the Bohai Bay oil spill, to account for the accident in accordance with China’s laws and to improve the overall environment in Bohai Bay. It would cooperate with relevant government departments and China National Offshore Oil Corp. (CNOOC), its partner in developing the Penglai 19-3 oilfield, in establishing and operating the fund, said the company.
Two days later, CNOOC announced that it would urge ConocoPhillips China to alter its overall development plan for the oilfield and drive forward the establishment of the fund.
However, no real action has been taken until now.
Wang Shicheng said, “Aside from the United States’ sound laws and regulations, the establishment of the Gulf of Mexico Fund has to do with the fact that the whole country, especially the government, maintained a hard-line attitude, pressing and pressuring BP to set up the fund. In contrast, China has only paid lip service; and so far ConocoPhillips China has not paid one cent.”
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