Friday, May 1, 2015

China's Dry Mountain Winter Olympics

    As the 2022 Winter Olympics draw closer, China makes a strong push to host these games. As part of their bid China is looking to build several large ski resorts to host events. While building these resorts would take away the land from local farmers in the region, they welcome this addition acknowledging that these places would bring more jobs and revenue, an estimated $500 a month for employees, than farming does in this region.
    China’s bid and potential building of these massive resorts would come at a huge cost. It is estimated to cost over $250 million dollars to construct all the facilities. The largest cost, however, would be the environmental impact of constructing these facilities. One problem is that in order to build, large amounts of trees, many of which are in National Parks, need to be cut down to create the slopes. The International Olympic Committee states that it will replant the trees in other areas; however, this number is very difficult to monitor and causes other erosional problems. The second and larger problem is the impact this would have on China’s water supply. Beijing’s mountainous region receives only about 16 inches of rain a year making it a semiarid region. The water it does receive cannot be used for farming purposes but is redirected to South mainly to be used for snow generation at these resorts. It was estimated that in 2011,“Beijing used an average of about a billion gallons of water a year, or enough for 42,000 people” in 11 ski resorts.
    As much revenue as the resorts would generate for this region I find it very unstable and not worth the environmental risk to build the needed ski resorts. With China’s population on the rise, I do not see how water can continue to be used on a luxury while there is a real threat of potentially running out of drinking water. It makes more sense to have these events take place in areas where snow is more natural available, instead of the measly average of 8.3 inches in China. No matter how sustainable and ecofriendly the IOC tries to make this event it will not be as environmentally friendly as simply leaving these forested areas untouched. With China’s horrible air quality issues I do not think they can afford to cut down any trees. It’s very hard to ignore the revenue that would be provided from the resorts. However, as the amount of water continues to decrease there may not even be enough water for the resorts to remain open. Now huge irreversible environmental impacts have been made on this region for basically no gain. Personally I think it is better to sacrifice the potential economic gains for a sounder environment and water security.
--Sam Moxey

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