Beijing Olympics: The price of progress

Column by Haresh Daswani

I believe this is a cycle the whole world encounters during growth.

It is not only in Beijing, where we have seen the levels of pollution through pictures trying to present the beauty of the new infrastructure.

These pictures also showed the price to the environment for those infrastructures.

It was a strange and surreal truth in one picture.

Beijing had to battle with pollution as more cars come on the road, and as more factories are being built. This was also the case in the United States, UK, and other countries (many of them were seen during the Industrial Revolution). Even Brazil had to contend with this situation.

The bigger question is, in pursuit for a better lifestyle for its citizens, does a country have to sacrifice health and its own environment? It does look apparent, but with all the demand going high for luxuries, many have forgotten what it could do as well.

The biggest and most taxing (as evidenced by many countries) is the use of automobiles. If these could be brought down through more efficient transportation infrastructure, people will have preference to use alternative and more efficient vehicles rather than having to find parking and getting stuck with traffic. Unfortunately, like in many countries, owning a car is a more efficient means of transportation in terms of getting there on time, but not necessarily the best.

With the 3 Gorges Dam, while the situation is very splitting, the necessity to use hydro electricity to rid the country of any use of fossil is a major advantage, aside from saving millions from the dread of the flood. This, in some way, is actually a positive step.

The more important and remaining issue is, how about factories? How efficient can factories get in reducing pollution? The answer is that as long as they adopt the most environmental procedures available today, they are going towards the right direction, even if it is not completely free from pollution. This would mean though that companies will have to seek going paperless, using better filters, investing in new technology, and all other solutions to bring down pollution to the most minimum it can get. If companies find these investments expensive, perhaps the government can reallocate its budget from subsidies for production to subsidies to cleaning the environment. This would give more advantage to its citizens and surroundings in the future.

Hopefully, the next picture we will see of the Beijing Olympic infrastructure will present wonderful greenery as well.

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