Provincial Differences: Green Hunan and Dry Gansu

Circle of Blue reporter Nadya Ivanova starts her second of three weeks reporting in the field from China, where she wonders about the effects of regional development and pollution on farming practices.

CHANGSHA, China — Even through the thick fog and fine drizzle that veil Changsha’s clusters of new concrete high-rises, the city’s streets bathe in lush green and bright spring blossoms. It’s the rain season here in the capital of Hunan Province in central China. The air is sticky and damp, and the soil is soaked with water. It’s been pouring so much lately that locals joke it has only rained twice this year — the first time for three months straight and the second for two months on end.

Much of this Chinese city of 7 million was rice paddies 20 years ago. Banking on the province’s abundant natural resources, Changsha has grown so much in the last decade that it is now about to open a subway system. It is urbanizing so fast that city planners have to revise their five-year plans every year to catch up with the whirlwind development. More and more heavy metal factories are now opening up on long stretches of the nearby Xiangjiang River, a tributary of the Yangtze River.