opinionBy Pan Butamire
IMAGINE somebody cutting down 700 of Rwanda's 1000 hills! It'd mean that instead of being the land of a thousand hills, the country would be known as the land of 300 hills. And, no doubt, such an action - that of cutting - would be followed by an exodus of Rwandans. Rwanda would not only be too small to contain 11 million of them but it'd also be a shame to identify with.
As somebody has said before, if you were to 'iron' the hills of Rwanda (as in ironing creased clothes) and stretch them out, the country would cover an area as big as its neighbour to the west, DRC! Even if it's known as a tiny country, it's actually bigger than its boundaries make it. But if Rwandans were to cut down their hills rather than stretch them, then they'd truly be a tiny country. Instead of dwelling on the sides and tops of the hills, they'd be dwelling on the bases only. The country wouldn't even be a quarter of what it is today.
So, Rwandans and residents of Rwanda, thank your gods that you are not in China!
If you're keen to follow any titbit of news - which I can bet that you are (tongue in cheek!) - then you've heard that China is planning to flatten 700 mountains so as to build a metropolis. And they are not only going to 'plant' skyscrapers in place of those mountains, no sir. In a region that's known to be among the worst wastelands of China, they are planning to plant trees. And that's not all, they're also planning to 'plant' rivers and lakes! Yes, those amazing Chinese are going to re-model the country that Nature gave them.
Chinese, they'll never cease to amaze! When they do anything, they don't do it in half-measures.
The said massive "mountain-moving project" will decimate 500 square miles of mountainous territory "to make room for a new urban district." That's more than 1,000 sq. km. Not exactly a tiny section of Rwanda's surface area - 26,000 sq. km of it, with 3 per cent as water! All of it levelled to make way for commercial and residential buildings that are interspersed with green areas and waterways. All at the cost of a cool $3.35 billion! And already $11 billion has been raised. Beat that for colossal ambitions!
Yet this is not the first of China's "earth-moving" feats. Ever heard of the Three Gorges Dam? Although it's not the biggest in the world in annual electricity generation, it's the world's largest power station in installed capacity, which is 22,500 MW. When in your nook of the world you are talking about less than a 100 MW, it certainly should dumbfound you some! Luckily for them, Rwandans are a population of over 10 million, not over one billion. Knowing their limited land area, they don't need giant projects.
So, the 'leaf' they want to borrow may be The Changsha. The Changsha, now that's something else!
Look at Pension Plaza, this new RSSB 'skyscraper' here in Kigali. Or again, look at what at one time was contemplated to be called a Kigali landmark, The Kigali City Tower. At about 18 floors, both buildings took more than two years to complete, if my aging memory serves me well (which I know it doesn't!) Sticking to the buildings, though, with their completion and the existence of a few others, Kigalois (Kigali residents) are beginning to talk about a skyline.
Now think about this. If these Kigalois had been as hard-working as the Chinese, they'd've been talking about their skyline within a few days of conceiving of building them, the 1990s!
And that's how The Changsha comes in. The Changsha is a 30-strorey hotel, which in itself is not in any way remarkable. The world knows of a litany of 100-plus-storey hotels. What's remarkable about this Changsha (there are many buildings similarly named) is that it was built in 15 days. Fifteen days flat and a building twice the height of Pension Plaza was good and ready for occupancy, from scratch! And there was no record broken because, before that, in the same area, the Chinese had built a 15-storey hotel in six days. However big a cynic you may be, you cannot but raise your hat to these relentless workers!
And trust them not to stomach any competition in anything. When they saw that the Arabs had built the world's tallest building, now they are busy. Burj Khalifa, in Dubai, stands at 828 metres high, with 162 floors. The Chinese were not happy that Arabs had beaten them at height. Now they are putting up The Changsha (looks like their everything record-breaking is in that name!), which will stand at 838 metres. It is credited to be the ugliest hotel in the world, all right, but maybe it's telling that it's Americans doing the crediting.
At 443 metres high and 102 floors, The State Empire Building in New York was once put among the wonders of the world. Now it is among the wondrous dwarfs of the world!
Is wealth tilting towards where there is hard work? I see no reason not to say a big "YES"!