The ecological price of getting rich in a green desert: A contingent valuation study in rural Southwest China
The cultivation of rubber trees in Xishuangbanna Prefecture in China's Yunnan Province has triggered an unprecedented economic development but it is also associated with severe environmental problems. Rubber plantations are encroaching the indigenous rainforests at a large scale and a high speed in Xishuangbanna. Many rare plant and animal species are endangered by this development, the natural water management is disturbed and even the microclimate in this region has changed over the past years. The present study aims at an assessment of these environmental costs of the economic progress in Xishuangbanna. To this end a Contingent Valuation survey is conducted to elicit local residents' willingness to pay for a reforestation program that converts existing rubber plantations back into forest. It is shown that though local people's awareness of the environmental problems caused by increasing rubber plantation is quite high their willingness to pay in order to change things is rather low. It seems that from the perspective of local residents the economic advantages of rubber cultivation outweigh the resulting environmental threats. Another explanation of the low willingness to pay stated in this survey might be the fact that many respondents consider taxes and fees already too high in China so that they are not willing to make any further contributions to whatever purpose.
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