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Ecological Footprint in Northwest China

CHEN Dong-jing, XU Zhong-min, CHENG Guo-dong, ZHANG Zhi-qiang (State Key Laboratory of Frozen Soil Engineering, CAREERI, CAS, Lanzhou Gansu 730000, China)  
Sustainable development is a hot issue in contemporary period. The issue needs to be studied further. Since the concept of sustainable development was put forward, many systems of index for measuring the level of a region's development have been provided. However, all of them have some flaws. In the late 1990s, ecological footprint theory was provided to deal with a certain area's development conditions. It measures the development level from a new aspect. The theory comes from the knowledge that people's consume can be transferred into biologically productive land, which produces all the resources and assimilates all the wastes generated by human. In this paper the theory of ecological footprint is introduced and applied in the five provinces/regions (Shaanxi, Gansu, Ningxia, Qinghai and Xinjiang) in Northwest China as a case study of ecological footprints. The ecological footprint makes of three main ledgers. The first one is basic biotic resources consumption including its sub-products, the second one is energy consumption, and the third one is trade balance. Through more detailed trade flow analyses, the trade balance can mitigate the influence of import and export product on consumption. Based on the ecological footprint concept and analysis framework, human consumption can be compared with natural capital production at the regional level by using the available data. The result is uneasy for the sustainable development in the five provinces/regions,whoseecologicalfootprintdeficitis 0.1119, 0.7471, 0.4242, 0.061, 0.8863 hm 2/cap, respectively. In 1999, product coefficients of GDP to ecologicalfootprintare 3787.76RMB/hm 2inShaanxi,3478.91 RMB/hm 2 in Ningxia, 2971.72 RMB/hm 2 in Qinghai, 2780.0 RMB/hm 2 in Gansu and 2728.1 RMB/hm 2 in Xinjiang. According to a further analysis, some problems were found. Such as the supply of ecological footprint of land in the five provinces/regions, except Xinjiang, is superfluous; the influence of export and import on ecological footprint is very small in the five provinces/regions, except Xinjiang. In Xinjiang, the ecological footprint of export exceeds that of import, which reflected that Xinjiang is an energy-exported region. This paper urges that ecological footprint in Northwest China will change with two trends (more or less deficit) under different strategies. This will impact on sustainable development of Northwest China finally. At last, several disadvantages of the theory of ecological footprint were mainly commented about in this paper. The theory may evaluate the status at present, but was short of function to forecast a regional development trend. Several important issues have not been included in the theory, such as how to calculate water in products and how to select more correct disposing standard. Several suggestions are given in this paper. The theory have not considered the equilibrium of development of economy, equal distribution of social benefit, efficient utilization of economic resources, advance of science and technology and profound influence of environment. However, the theory has given a new research aspect of sustainable development and provided a certain way to make regional development plan
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