Environmental Protection in China: Land-Use Management, edited by Jeff Bennett, Xuehong Wang and Lei Zhang. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 2008. viri + 234 pp. £59.95/US$l 15.00 (hardcover).
In response to daunting agro-environmental problems, China has embarked on some of the largest land rehabilitation programs in the world. The most significant of these programs is the Conversion of Cropland to Forest and Grassland Program (CCFGP). Despite the size and the impacts of the CCFGP, few studies provide a comprehensive economic assessment of the program or rigorously quantify the environmental and income impacts. This book edited by Jeff Bennett, Xuehong Wang and Lei Zhang fills this gap in the literature admirably.
It does so through a series of logically ordered economic analyses presented by chapter. After describing land-use issues in China (Chapter 2) and the CCFGP (Chapter 3), Chapter 4 draws on household surveys from four counties to assess the financial effects of households participating in the CCFGP. Chapter 5 extrapolates this farm-level data up to 198 counties in the Loess Plateau areas participating in the CCFGP to enable a broader financial cost-benefit analysis of the program. Subsequent chapters incorporate environmental impacts into the assessment of the program. One environmental cost of the program is reduced water run-off into the Yellow River, which is valued in Chapter 6 through bioeconomic modeling. Chapter 7 values non-market benefits of the CCFGP (such as sandstorms/air quality, aesthetics and biodiversity) through surveys of urban "consumers" in three cities, choice modeling techniques and extrapolation to the population of North China. Chapter 8 then combines all of these analyses into a partial financial and environmental cost-benefit analysis of the program.
The modeling and analyses lead the authors to conclude that the CCFGP has in general improved the social welfare of people in North China. The program has provided the initial capital, knowledge and information to encourage households to convert cropping land into forest and grasslands. Most households and areas benefit financially under the program, even without program subsidies and under a wide range of (output, price) scenarios, which "explains the reason why the program has been received with unprecedented enthusiasm and participation by farm households" (p. 111). While this suggests that the agricultural systems stimulated by the program are sustainable, the authors argue for a continuation of the program in order to encourage participation by those households without the financial incentives to convert land. The case for continuing and expanding the project is bolstered by a high willingness amongst urban "consumers" to pay for the environmental services of the CCFGP. However, the authors argue the need for more cost-effective targeting of the program through market-based instruments such as auctions (where local areas bid competitively for program funding to undertake agro-environmental projects) and through payments from users benefiting directly from the program (such as hydro-electric stations).
Any study of this book's breadth will inevitably gloss over some items. …