Transparency best way to get rid of Nimbyism

By Yu Ning Source:Global Times Published: 2016/8/12 0:13:40

The government of Lianyungang, East China's Jiangsu Province, announced the suspension of preliminary work on a planned Sino-French nuclear waste reprocessing project. The move followed protests by local residents worried about pollution and health risks.

As the Chinese public's environmental awareness grows, an increasing number of protests have been staged in recent years against heavy industry projects, such as Paraxylene projects, power plants, and waste incinerators. The developments, as a result of strong opposition, often were relocated or aborted.

It's unfair to blame the faltering plans in China solely on the local governments or the residents. To solve the conundrum requires efforts of both sides as well as third parties like the media. All governments across the world to a varying degree are facing a crisis of credibility and they also face local resistance when pushing forward heavy industrial projects. China is not the only place where Nimbyism has taken hold in its cities - other international cities like Singapore have also been affected. 

Public distrust in the government is believed to be the major reason. For many local residents, there is no absolute guarantee that those projects, if built in their neighborhood, can be 100 percent safe. If there is some harm, they will bear the brunt of the costs and risks. The best way to defuse their suspicions is to make the projects transparent and involve the public. Unfortunately, local governments often keep local residents away from the decision-making at the planning stage. This shatters the governments' credibility and deepens public distrust in the governments.

Some Chinese scholars also hold that protests like Lianyungang are essentially because of a surge in Nimbyism in China, where residents reject certain developments from their neighborhoods, even though they believe they are needed for the good of society. In the process of modernization, China needs to produce Paraxylene, incinerate waste and develop nuclear power. These projects are basically established for long-term and broad public goods, but citizens only want to freely benefit from them without paying their way.

It's a dilemma as China has entered an era of post-modernization. Decades after China's reform and opening-up, fast development has been closely associated with wise governrment policy-making and powerful implementation. Now that the social environment is totally different, the way forward is to be more open.

To seek consensus on advancing a heavy industry project, the government should improve its decision-making process by giving the public the right to know from the very start and should extend public dialogue in which questions can be asked and answered. The media should also be involved to introduce other countries' lessons, present experts' views and hold public discussions to relieve the suspicions of the residents.


Posted in: Observer

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