Living in the throes of development

“These are the throes of a developing city,” read a message on a local online forum. Many citizens of Huai’an are having a hard time sleeping at night with the sounds of jackhammers and cranes running in the background. If modernization has a sound, then this is it.

In July, massive construction projects began inside the city’s Economic Development Zone (EDZ). Prior to this the sites under development had been deserted for years.

Supposedly, the development is meant to ease pressure on the local housing market. Last year many older homes in Huai’an were demolished. And although the people who lost their homes were financially compensated, they were still without a place to live. Without much to choose from, many of them turned to the EDZ to buy a new home, with their new money.

Huai’an Ecological New City

The EDZ is a relatively new district. It sits close to the Ecological New City, an area where the new municipal government building and other so-called modern architectural wonders sit.

The migration of the municipal government brought superior medical and educational resources, and in turn, increased housing prices.

Homebuyers were attracted to the area’s “geographical advantages”. Many people bought houses they couldn’t afford. School enrollment quotas were met at a faster rate due to overcrowding. The demolition and construction in the city’s older areas have made things worse. The noises at night have become fixtures of the city.

In October I called the Huai’an Mayor Hotline (12345) and was told by a polite receptionist that she would notify the police and they would handle it.

The next day she called me back and said that someone had called to complain about the same issue and the police had handled it.

The construction noise stopped for a few days, but then it resumed. After a week I called the hotline again and spoke with a different receptionist, who sounded younger than the previous one. She thought the construction company probably had a permit issued by the Provincial Environmental Administration that excused the construction noise. She suggested I find out if there was a permit at one of the sites.

The next day I went to one of the sites and after a careful inspection was unable to find a work permit whatsoever.

I haven’t called the hotline again because the noise is not that loud at night, at least not loud enough to wake me up. But another reason is that I have almost lost all hope the authorities can resolve the problem.

Anyway, just like the pollution emanating from chemical plants in Huai’an suburbs, the government will continue to turn a blind eye in an effort to reach or surpass their economic goals. It’s just another example of what it means to live in the “throes of development.”