By Howard Lin ’05
Abstract: The Returning Reclaimed Farmland to Lake and Resettling to New Town policies were implemented in the Poyang Lake Region in Jiangxi, China after the massive 1998 flooding. The main motivation of these policies was to increase the storage capacity of the lake as an insurance against future flooding. However, little research has been conducted to analyze the impact of the policy on the relationship among the environment, public health, and the regional economy. The goal of this research is three fold: first, the Human Behavior Ecology framework will be applied to address the short-term incentives for the residents to comply; second, system thinking modeling will be constructed to analyze the long-term impact of the policies; third, recommendations and insights will be provided to ensure the sustainability of these policies.
The research shows that the policy was successful short-term because it addressed the localized cost and distributed benefit issues by providing economic incentives for people to comply. However, data from an informal survey showed that a small portion of the local residents did not support the policy, and that some instances of land reclamation were observed. To better understand the relationship between the environment, public health, and the regional economy, a system thinking approach was applied and a causal loop map and STELLA model were created. The results showed that the key to long-term success of these policies is to promote ecotourism because it provides alternative non lake-contacting income sources and aligns economic incentives with conservation. However, if the expectations of the local residents are not met, they may decide to go back to the abandoned lands and undo the intent of the original policies. Therefore, the government will need to actively manage the expectations of the local residents by providing sufficient support for the residents without promising unrealistic results.