While an economic powerhouse that contributes to China’s economy, the Yangtze River Economic Belt is facing major challenges, particularly concerning the environment, a Chinese economist warned.
The economic aggregate of the belt, which includes 11 provinces and municipalities along the Yangtze River from west to east, reached US$566.46 billion in 2018, data from the Hubei Provincial Bureau of Statistics shows.
However, in a recent article for portal china.org.cn, Yuan Zheng, an economics professor at the Southwest University of Finance and Economics and a researcher of the Yangtze River Economic Belt Research Institute at the Renmin University of China, said the area is facing serious challenges.
As the belt develops, the overall ecology of the river basin is degrading: water levels of major lakes such as Dongting and Poyang are frequently low, wildlife populations are decreasing and industrial pollution remains unchecked.
Economic development is also unbalanced between east and west. For instance, Shanghai’s average GDP is 3.27 times larger than the GDP of Guizhou Province, 3.64 times that of Yunnan Province and 2.76 times larger than that of Sichuan Province. This imbalance has also negatively impacted environmental protection in the basin, Yuan wrote.
In addition, the efficiency of water transportation on the Yangtze River, which is much cheaper than rail and air transportation, need to be improved while the environment is better protected, Yuan said.