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The Dragon’s mindless growth poses big environmental risks

China’s myopic decisions leading to indiscriminate industrialisation, construction of huge dams and
other so-called developmental activities are fraught with the danger of big environmental disaster.

LT GEN PR SHANKAR (Retd)

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Environmental degradation and pollution are serial stranglers. Environmental degradation began with Mao’s ‘conquest of nature’ idea. The Chinese economy and severe environmental degradation took off together five decades back. China embraced industrialisation and economic progress unhesitatingly. Quick time centralised decision making without due checks and balances was the norm. Polluting industry was, in fact, enabled. Environmental regulation was blindsided. As China’s economy and geopolitical power grew, the negative consequences were on food, water and health securities. China has faced three-fold environmental degradation. One, developing an overpopulated and underdeveloped society, at frenetic pace has induced ecological stresses of land and water shortage, deforestation, and desertification. Two, its gigantic industrialisation and rapidly increasing urbanisation in a globalised economy has resulted in huge pollution including generation of marine and toxic wastes. Three, climate change has started to make its presence felt. At some stage the economy will be impacted, slow down and start shrinking. 

Dammed Degradation

 Since the 1950s, the Chinese have built around 22,000 dams which are more than 15 meters tall. It is roughly half the world’s total. More than 16 million Chinese have been relocated to make way for these hydro projects. They have over 125 mega dams with heights more than 100m. These mega-dams,block the flow of rivers, create floods, affect agriculture and fisheries, increase the chances of earthquakes, and destroy environments. To quote a view ‘rather than benefiting populations with non-polluting power, China’s dam builders are making a Faustian bargain with nature, selling their country’s soul in their drive for economic growth’. Extreme view? It was recently borne out by the massive flooding of the Yangtze basin in the course of which it was feared that the Three Gorges Dam, the biggest dam in the world, would collapse. It is so massive that it has the capacity to slow the earth’s rotation. It is now internationally recognised that the entire exercise has been a huge environmental disaster. The sheer number of dams has created so many water bodies that it has induced local climate change whose effect is being felt within China. The larger issue of global climate change will wreak greater disasters. To illustrate the argument, the analysed complexity of issues surrounding the Three Gorges Dam is reproduced ‘Factors are color-coded whereby green factors signify ecological issues and blue ones signify sociological issues. Beginning with the left, the Three Gorges Dam project has caused forced migration of many people both directly due to Chinese government policy as well as indirectly through landslides and erosion. Furthermore, forced migrants put pressure on urban centres insofar as they need housing and jobs that may not necessarily be available. This in turn affected the standard of living by contributing to poverty, among other things. All of this acted to erode social stability, which is itself a form of latent conflict and which is requisite for violent overt conflict. On the right hand side, we see that the dam disturbs fault lines and causes watershed erosion, both of which negatively affect ecological stability. Furthermore, the dam is believed to be connected to earthquakes in the area due to its massive size. All of these disruptions signal the potential for grave ecological problems such as ecological collapse, biodiversity loss, erosion, etc.’ 

Kingdom of Rare Earths

 China is the ‘Kingdom of Rare Earths’ with a market share of 80-90% in the past two decades. Rare earths are used in semiconductors and energy saving devices (see graphic). China’s rare earth map is shown below. Rare earth mining has a parallel and thriving huge black market. It is extremely polluting and contaminating to the extent that ‘cancer villages’ have sprung/springing up near mines. Rare earth mining is a contamination time bomb for the Yellow River in the North. In the South, China’s mega-cities like Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Hong Kong may have already been affected by the radioactive toxicity related to uranium. It is no more a matter of ‘if’, but ‘when’. Water for agriculture and drinking in all rare earth mining areas and in downstream areas is heavily contaminated by excessive amounts of ammonia, nitrogen, cadmium, lead and its compounds. Remuneration from rare earths is inadequate to offset costs in health and environmental cleaning. Take another case of Titanium. China is the dominant player in the international market. Titanium mines destroy nature and habitat. The extracted ore is refined with Chlorine which is a huge environmental hazard. It is another saga of pollution and contamination. Sichuan, Hubei, Yunnan, Hainan, Guangxi and Guangdong have Titanium deposits. Sichuan has the largest deposits. Incidentally, India has huge reserves of Titanium. However, its extraction will defoliate the Deccan. Not an option and that is why we have not gone for it. A similar pollution / degradation story repeats with every form of resource extraction in China. The ‘Cancer Village’ map , which is result of all such pollution, can be seen below. Presently, more than 50% of China’s surface water is not fit for human consumption. 60% of the groundwater under Chinese cities is considered to be ‘severely polluted’. The World Bank (2007) estimated that the health cost of cancers and diarrhoea associated with water pollution reached approximately US$8 billion in 2003 in rural areas of China. Today it must be many times more. Resource extraction will extract more from China than imaginable. The damage has already been done and that too in its prosperous coastal belt. 

Other Stranglers

 There are other environmental degradation, pollution and contamination examples. Approximately 70% of the electronic waste generated worldwide used to be processed in China. It poses substantial risk to health and the environment (Ni and Zeng 2009). Small-scale rural factories known as ‘township and village enterprises’ contribute significantly to China’s growing rural pollution problems. China is world’s largest manufacturer, trader and fossil fuel consumer. It is responsible for 47% of the world’s coal burning, which is more than all other countries in the world combined. The list is endless.

 Energy

China’s energy demand is likely to peak between 2035 and 2040 (see graphs). Its oil demand is expected to peak in 2030. However its petrochemical and gas demand will increase till 2050. China’s import dependence on oil and gas will continue to be around 50%. Coal is set to lose ground to renewables. However, it is still expected to account for 40% of power generation in 2035. The share of coal in China’s primary energy mix is expected to fall as shown in the graph. Renewables, oil and gas combined will overtake coal’s share of primary energy consumption by 2050. Having said all that coal will still remain the single largest supply source through to 2050. If one analyses this data, a few things stand out:- China will continue to be energy dependent and vulnerable. It will never attain energy security. Coal based energy will not vanish. Its effect on pollution will endure. Overall CO2 emissions are expected to fall only after 2035. China has committed to Carbon neutrality by 2060. By then it might be too late. Per capita requirement and consumption of energy will continue to increase as China modernises. China will continue to extract rare earths. Rare earths are extensively used in magnets for wind generation. Hence reduction in pollution due to renewables will be offset by pollution due to rare earths. Pollution will not decrease. China, in all likelihood, will enter into a state of energy entropy. 

Lt Gen PR Shankar was India’s DG Artillery. He is highly decorated and qualified with vast operational experience. He contributed significantly to the modernisation and indigenisation of Artillery. He is now a Professor in the Aerospace Dept of IIT Madras and is involved in applied research for defence technology. His other articles can be read on his blog www. gunnersshot.com.

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Defence

SWARNIM VIJAY VARSH CELEBRATIONS AT RASHTRIYA RIFLES SECTOR HEADQUARTERS

Ashish Singh

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NEW DELHI: The Swarnim Vijay Varsh Victory Flame after having entered the serene Kashmir Valley through the Navyug Tunnel on Tuesday, continued its journey and made its way to Anantnag City, also known as the ‘Land of Infinite Springs’. The Victory flame was received by Commanding Officer of Rashtriya Rifles Battalion, Wuzur and travelled to Khanabal, Anantnag via Mir Bazar, Khudwani and Wampoh and reached Rashtriya Rifles Sector Headquarter, Khanabal.

The flame was received with tremendous fervour by school children, local youth, 13 Veer Naris, 55 ex-servicemen, personnel from Security Forces & Law Enforcement Agencies and many other civilian dignitaries from the local administration. Thereafter, the Victory Flame was escorted through the Khanabal Junction, proudly carried by military personnel & civilians alike before entering the Khanabal Military Garrison. Later, the Victory Flame was handed over to the Commander, Sector Rashtriya Rifles, Khanabal at the War Memorial. Wreaths were laid to pay homage to the unsung War Heroes, by the visiting dignitaries, including Mr Hilal Ahmed Shah, Mayor Anantnag, Mr Ghulam Hussain Sheikh, IAS, Additional DC Anantnag, Mr Imtiyaz Hussain Mir, SSP Anantnag, Mr DP Upadhyay, DIG CRPF, Mr Abdul Jabbar, IPS, DIG (South Kashmir) and Commander Sector Rashtriya Rifles, Khanabal, followed by a ceremonial Guard of Honour. Post the solemn event, the celebrations continued with cultural performances by school children and local artists, followed by the felicitation of Veer Naris, Veer Matas & veterans by the dignitaries present.

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Defence

CHINA’S NEW BRI: BRIDE RESUPPLY INITIATIVE

Ashish Singh

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China is facing a mammoth problem due to a huge gender imbalance, with the male population exceeding the female population by more than 30 million, as per the data from China’s National Bureau of Statistics. The imbalance in the post-2000s and population of marriageable age have become incrementally vicious & even more urgent.

In 2020, the sex ratio of the total population in China was 105.302 males per 100 females as per data provided by Statistic Times. In total, there are 738,247,340 or 738.25 million males and 701,076,434 or 701.08 million females in China. The percentage of the female population is 48.71 percent compared to 51.29 percent male population.

The most influential factor behind such skewed figures has been the erstwhile infamous “one-child” policy of China from 1979 to 2015, which prompted many parents to decide that their sole child must be a boy. Though China reversed it in 2016 to allow families to have two children as fears grew about the country’s fast-ageing population and shrinking workforce, the change has not yet resulted in a baby boom, with Chinese women often delaying or avoiding childbirth and young couples blaming rising costs and insufficient policy support for families.

China now has a huge, and growing, gender gap among the generations most likely to be seeking a spouse—a bride shortage. As on date there are around 35 million males more than females and this figure is expected to grow by almost 5% every year (as per present sex ratio), meaning that China will have more than 50 million ‘Extra Men’ within next five years. Experts project that many of these extra men will never marry; others may go to extreme measures to do so. The difficulty that these Chinese men now face in finding wives, combined with a lack of protections in China, is driving a brutal business of selling women and girls from neighbouring countries.

BRIDE RESUPPLY INITIATIVE

It has emerged that agents in China and Pakistan have used the garb of CPEC to literally kidnap girls from lower socio-economic backgrounds, especially from minority communities such as Christians, Hindus and marry them off to Chinese men. US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Samuel Brownback during a statement in Dec 2020 mentioned this as one of the reasons for designating Pakistan as a country of particular concern (CPC) under the International Religious Freedom Act.

Most of these Pakistani brides are given inflated information about the socio-economic status of these Chinese grooms which turns out to be false. These women and girls are typically tricked by brokers who promise well-paid employment across the border in China. Once in China, they find themselves at the mercy of the brokers, who sell them for around $3,000 to $13,000 to Chinese families. Once purchased they may be held prisoner and pressured to produce babies as quickly as possible. Similar stories have been documented by journalists and researchers in some other countries too like Cambodia, North Korea, Myanmar, and Vietnam, among others, although on a relatively smaller scale.

As part of the Belt and Road Initiative’s China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, Pakistan received a $ 62-billion infrastructural investment package to develop major works, from roads to power plants. Quite naturally, the Pak government has sought to curtail investigations, putting “immense pressure” on officials from the Federal Investigation Agency pursuing trafficking networks fearing such efforts could sour relationships with the country’s all weather ally- China, says Saleem Iqbal, a Christian activist who has helped parents rescue several young girls from China and prevented others from being sent there. Other countries with trafficked brides face similar asymmetrical power and economic relationships with China, and analysts doubt these nations will discuss difficult topics like action against bride trafficking in negotiations with their powerful neighbour.

The Chinese government’s main response for many years seemed to be simply to ignore growing allegations about authorities’ complicity in these crimes. But the problem is becoming too big to ignore; the government’s stonewalling is gradually being replaced by a mixture of criminal justice and propaganda responses, neither of which get to the real issue of gender discrimination.

As per experts’ calculations, it will take about 50 to 60 years to slowly resolve the gender imbalance formed 20 to 30 years ago if some concrete steps are taken today. Well, while that might be true, Xi Jinping does not need to bother much having a sidekick like Pakistan under his thumb. With a sinking economy, ever rising pile of debts with some requiring immediate payback and the FATF sword looming on is neck since ages, Pakistan is left with very little choice other than complying with the Chinese demands even if that’s at the cost of its daughters.

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Defence

AT ASEAN DEFENCE MINISTERS’ MEETING, RAJNATH SINGH CALLS FOR AN OPEN AND INCLUSIVE ORDER IN INDO-PACIFIC

Ashish Singh

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NEW DELHI: Defence Minister Rajnath Singh called for an open and inclusive order in Indo-Pacific based upon respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of nations while addressing the 8th ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting (ADMM) Plus on Wednesday. The ADMM Plus is an annual meeting of Defence Ministers of 10 ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries and eight dialogue partner countries – Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Russia and the United States. Brunei is the Chair of the ADMM Plus forum this year.

Rajnath Singh also stressed on “peaceful resolutions of disputes through dialogue and adherence to international rules and laws.” “India has strengthened its cooperative engagements in the Indo-Pacific based on converging visions and values for promotion of peace, stability and prosperity in the region. Premised upon the centrality of ASEAN, India supports utilisation of ASEAN-led mechanisms as important platforms for implementation of our shared vision for the Indo-Pacific”, he added. During thematic discussions on regional and international security environment, Rajnath Singh put forth India’s views before the Defence Ministers of ASEAN countries and eight dialogue partners. He stressed that the emerging challenges to international peace and security cannot be addressed with outdated systems designed to deal with trials of the past.

The Raksha Mantri reiterated India’s support to freedom of navigation, over-flight and unimpeded commerce for all in international waters in accordance with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). “Maritime security challenges are a concern to India. The Sea lanes of Communication are critical for peace, stability, prosperity and development of the Indo-Pacific region,” he stressed. The Raksha Mantri hoped that the Code of Conduct negotiations will lead to outcomes keeping with international law and do not prejudice the legitimate rights and interests of nations that are not party to these discussions.

On the ‘Act East Policy’, announced by Prime Minister Narender Modi in November 2014,Rajnath Singh stated that the key elements of the policy aim to promote economic cooperation, cultural ties and develop strategic relationships with countries in the Indo-Pacific region through continuous engagement at bilateral, regional and multilateral levels. Terming terrorism and radicalisation as gravest threats to world peace and security, Rajnath Singh called for collective cooperation to fully disrupt terror organisations and their networks; identify the perpetrators and hold them accountable and ensure that strong measures are taken against those who support and finance terrorism and provide sanctuary to terrorists. As a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), he said India remains committed to combat financing of terrorism.

To deal with cyber threats, the Raksha Mantri called for a multi-stakeholder approach, guided by democratic values, with a governance structure that is open and inclusive and a secure, open and stable internet with due respect to sovereignty of countries, that would drive the future of cyberspace. On the most recent challenge faced by the world, COVID-19, Rajnath Singh said the effect of the pandemic is still unfolding and the test, therefore, is to make sure that the world economy moves on the path of recovery and no one is left behind. This is only possible if entire humanity is vaccinated, he stated. “Globally available patent free vaccines, unhindered supply chains and greater global medical capacities are some of the lines of effort that India has suggested for a combined effort,” he highlighted.

Referring to the Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations, the Raksha Mantri stated that India remains one of the first to respond in times of distress in the immediate as well as extended neighbourhood. As a founding member of the Heads of Asian Coast Guard Agencies Meeting (HACGAM), India seeks to enhance capacity building through collaboration in the areas of Maritime Search & Rescue, he added. Rajnath Singh also underscored the importance India attaches to ASEAN centrality and unity in ensuring peace and stability in the region. He said India shares a deep connect with ASEAN and has continued its active engagement in many areas contributing to regional peace and stability, particularly through ASEAN led mechanisms, such as East Asia Summit, ASEAN Regional Forum and ADMM-Plus. The India-ASEAN strategic partnership has been strengthened by virtue of flourishing cultural and civilisational links and enhanced people-to-people cooperation, he added. The Raksha Mantri thanked Brunei for conducting the ADMM Plus despite the restrictions imposed by COVID-19. Defence Secretary Dr Ajay Kumar and Chief of Integrated Defence Staff to the Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee (CISC) Vice Admiral Atul Kumar Jain and other senior officials of Ministry of Defence and Ministry of External Affairs attended the meeting.

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Defence

INSPECTOR GENERAL M.V. PATHAK TAKES OVER AS THE COMMANDER OF COAST GUARD REGION NORTH EAST

Ashish Singh

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Inspector General MV Pathak took over as the Regional Commander, Coast Guard Region North East, Kolkata from Inspector General AK Harbola on Monday. Inspector General Pathak is an alumnus of the US Coast Guard Academy, Connecticut, having undergone the IMO Course from this academy.

During his illustrious career of more than three decades, Inspector General Pathak has commanded all classes of Coast Guard Ships. The shore appointments held by the flag officer include Chief of Staff to Coast Guard Commander (Western Seaboard) Mumbai, Commander Coast Guard (Kerala and Mahe), Principal Director (Administration), and Director (Manpower, Recruitment and Training) at Coast Guard Headquarters, New Delhi.

Before taking over the reins of Coast Guard Region North East, Inspector General Pathak was the Regional Commander, Coast Guard Region (Andaman & Nicobar) at Port Blair for three years. The flag officer is a recipient of the ‘Tatrakshak Medal’. Inspector General Maneesh Pathak on taking over said that his priority will be strengthening the Coastal Security mechanism through coordination with all State and Central Agencies and to make the seas safe for all fishermen and seafarers. He further added that the Indian Coast Guard is committed to in motto “Vayam Rakshamah” which means “We Protect”.

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Defence

INDIAN ARMY CONDUCTS RAIL TRIALS ON DEDICATED FREIGHT CORRIDOR

Ashish Singh

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The recently developed “Dedicated Freight Corridor (DFC)” by the Indian Railways provides faster movement of freight across the Country. The Indian Army, on Monday, conducted a successful trial by moving a military train loaded with vehicles and equipment from New Rewari to New Phulera validating the efficacy of the DFC. The intricate and synchronised coordination by the Indian Army with Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India Ltd (DFCCIL) and Indian Railways will significantly enhance the mobilisation capability of the Armed Forces. These trials were part of the “Whole of the Nation Approach” for optimising national resources and achieve seamless synergy among various ministries and departments.

Interactions by the Indian Army with all stakeholders including DFCCIL and Indian Railways will now assist in leveraging the DFC and allied infrastructure into the mobilisation matrix of Armed Forces. Development of infrastructure at certain locations to support mobilisation and trials to validate move of defence owned rolling stock on Roll On-Roll Off (RO-RO) service is being formalised and modalities are being evolved. These trials herald the first step in this process to pave the way for enhancing the operational readiness of the Armed Forces. This initiative would set in place processes to ensure that military requirements are dovetailed in the national infrastructure development at the planning stage itself.

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Defence

NORTHERN ARMY COMMANDER FELICITATES ‘VEER NARIS’ AND WAR HEROES OF 1971 INDIA-PAK WAR

Ashish Singh

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NEW DELHI: Lt Gen YK Joshi, GOC-in-C, Northern Command laid a wreath to Swarnim Vijay Mashaal and paid tributes to fallen heroes at the Warrior’s Grove War Memorial, Crossed Swords Division, Akhnoor as a part of Swarnim Vijay Varsh celebrations. The Army Commander accompanied by Lt Gen MV Suchindra Kumar, GOC White Knight Corps was briefed on the saga and valour of gallant soldiers of Indian Armed Forces during the 1971 Indo-Pak War. A documentary on the 1971 Indo-Pak War was screened for the audience.

The General officer felicitated Veer Naris and war heroes of the 1971 Indo Pak war at Akhnoor. The GOC-in-C, a war hero and Vir Chakra awardee, appreciated the veterans for their invaluable services for the motherland. He also expressed deep gratitude for the sacrifices of the Veer Naris. Lt Gen YK Joshi, GOC-in-C, Northern Command interacted with all veterans and Veer Naris following Covid protocol. He expressed gratitude and acknowledged the contributions of the populace of Jammu & Kasmir who have played a pivotal role during various operations. He assured Veer Naris and veterans of full support at all times as was extended during the Covid pandemic. He motivated them to take maximum benefits from the facilities rendered by the Indian Army at their doorstep including Covid Care Facilities, Covid vaccination, Covid preventive measures, and government schemes, etc.

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