to fill or not to fill…

…that is the question.

The lead article in today’s Shenzhen Evening Daily provocatively asks if the reader is for or against the China Petroleum plan to reclaim 37.9 hectares of Dapeng Bay. To date, Shenzhen has reclaimed 69 sq kilometers of coastline, an area six times larger than the Shekou Peninsula or 6.5% of Shenzhen’s total area. Moreover, of the Municipality’s 254 kilometer long coastline, only 40 kilometers remain undeveloped.

China Petroleum has proposed building a liquid natural gas (LNG) peaking power plant. Also known as peaker plants, and occasionally just “peakers,” these power stations do not run continuously, but rather provide additional energy during peak hours of demand, such as during summer afternoons when air-conditioning use is at its highest. They command a higher price per kilowatt hour than do base load plants, which operate continuously.

There has been a persistent buzz of protest against the proposed plan. The article goes on to say that in Shenzhen news net online survey, over 82% of respondents were against the plan. Moreover, there seems to be government support for the social push back. Last week, for example, a journalist friend said that Dapeng New District Government had no vested interest in the plant, but did have a interest in the coastline. Consequently, the government was using public disapproval as a means of countering China Petroleum, which is a national, state-owned enterprise.

Currently, Shenzhen is handling the stand-off through a hearing. The question facing the board, is whether or not the proposed station conforms to or is in conflict with Shenzhen’s environmental sustainability laws, which include protection for remaining coastline areas. Zhou Wei, a nature photographer and environmental activist has been at the forefront of bringing public awareness to the proposal and its environmental consequences. It is therefor notable that he is not one of the five members of the board that will hear arguments for and against building a Dapeng Peaker.

Of note. Today’s article phrased the question of “to fill or not to fill” in terms of the well-being of the City’s grandchildren:

We don’t know what the future of Dapeng Bay will be, nor do we know how you will view the decisions that we make today. Today we write this letter in the name of Shenzhen, in the hope that every choice we make will not harm our grandchildren.

jiaochangwei, or the coastal economy

For those who have been following Shenzhen’s expansion, you have noted the correspondence between the establishment of an administrative category, the announcement of an economic sector, and the full on government led reappropriation of folk investments and small scale development.

The opposition in play is the contradiction between 官方 and 民间 I’ve translated 官方 as government led because the appropriating entity is often government appointed or a state owned enterprise, but there is diversity and even discord therein, as will become apparent below. I’ve translated 民间 as folk because it captures something of the quaint and small and outdated notion of the public that seems to operate during these transitions. Moreover, the public is itself an important sphere of government led action.

Dapeng constitutes Shenzhen’s one remaining strip of relatively undeveloped coastline. It has been a site of 民间 development. The forms of folk development, for example, have included seafood restaurants in Nan Ao, and the strip of cheap inns at Jiaochangwei (较场尾). Jiaochangwei is a coastal village, as is evident from the mash-up of various generations of what are colloquially known as “farmer housing (农民房). And yes, Jiaochangwei is technically an urban village, with an emphasis on village and nature, rather than urban a la Baishizhou). Previous large scale development has been undertaken by Vanke (万科) which opened Shenzhen’s first yacht clubs far, far from the city. Or so it seemed.

In theory the Dapeng Peninsula is a conservation area, but so was the original Mangrove Park. However, in 2011 the Municipality designated Dapeng a New District (discussed earlier). Since then, there has been all sorts of investment in roads and even a national level geological museum slash park. This has been part of a movement to encourage the development of the coastal economy, including government led real estate development, which (as in Shekou) involves infrastructural transformation and privatization of the coastline.

At the moment most of these areas are only accessible by car, but an express bus, the E 11 gets ordinary folk into the area and a subway line is being built. Impressions of Jiaochangwei, below. And yes, if you decide to go, go during the week. On the weekend, there can be road delays of more than an hour, and lines for restaurants and ubiquitous BBQ joints.

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blooming contradictions

Unfortunately, more often than not modernization leaves us with street names instead of actual landscape features.

Shenzhen public landscaping, for example, has been defined by its enthusiasm for inaccessible green space that adorn its roads. Throughout the city, there are lovely swathes of topiary and grass that pedestrians (and even birds) can’t actually access except in passing. In part to rectify this problem, but also in response to the city’s white collar residents, a vast network of bike trails have been installed throughout the city. Moreover, these trails have been mapped and the public encouraged to walk and ride through the cities green belts.

Here’s the moment of ecological dissonance: at the same time that functionaries are being encouraged to bike on the weekend, plans have been announced to reclaim 39.7 sq kilometers of Dapeng Bay. The corporate culprit is China Oil, which intends to use the reclaimed land for extracting South China Sea oil reserves. And yes, these plans are moving forward despite the fact that Dapeng New District is an environmental conservation district.

So pictures of the Nanhai (literally “South Ocean”) Road, below and a link to an article about the land reclamation project, here.

What’s in a name, indeed.

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