A new retrospective study published in Frontiers in Marine Science proves that environmental cleanup projects are economically feasible alternatives to coastal development projects. This conclusion was made after researchers analyzed the Boston Harbor cleanup initiative and estimated that the restored ecosystem is now valued between $30 and $100 billion, thus proving that the $5 billion cleanup process was well worth the money.
Famously dubbed “the dirtiest harbor in America” in the 20th century, Boston Harbor is now “the great American jewel,” thanks to restoration policies put into place in 1986. Raw sewage and polluted shores have been transformed into a healthy oasis for both humans and marine life to enjoy.
“The Boston Harbor cleanup led to a significant increase in private investment, and economic growth along the waterfront has outpaced the city’s overall rate of increase,” lead author, Dr. Di Jin, from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, USA, said. “This shows that we need to give more consideration to ecosystem service benefits when evaluating policy options.”
Dr. Jin notes that, most times, cleanup propositions only take the current value of polluted land into account rather than the estimated value of the land post-cleanup. This low-balling of polluted land value leads to decision-makers choosing industrial or residential development projects over environmental conservation projects.
But as Dr. Jin and his team found by way of developing an economic evaluation model, healthy ecosystems of any kind can add huge value to a city or town. For example, clean water and shorelines can support fishing stocks and recreational sporting activities.
“The costly [Boston Harbor] project used almost 5 billion dollars of taxpayers’ money,” said Dr. Jin. “Yet this represents just 5%-16% of the total capitalized value of the ecosystem.”
Researchers hope their findings show city and town officials everywhere that environmental cleanup projects can be just as beneficial, if not more beneficial, to overall land value.
“Pollution control and cleanup is a common challenge facing many urban harbors around the world,” Dr. Jin added. He concluded, “We hope that our study will provide useful information to decision makers and the public facing similar decisions on the viability of ecosystem restoration projects.”
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