China Plans to Bulldoze Mountains for Urban Growth

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To create more flat land for the fast-growing cities in western China, local planners are increasingly turning to the drastic measure of bulldozing mountaintops and filling in valleys with dump trucks full of dirt.

The impact such massive earthmoving projects will have on soil conditions, erosion, groundwater and other environmental factors remains largely unknown. Nor is it clear whether the filled-in land will provide adequate structural support for tall buildings; construction on unstable foundation has led to new high-rises tumbling elsewhere in China.

Three scientists from the School of Environmental Science and Engineering at Chang’an University in Xi’an last week published a forceful commentary in the journal Nature warning that “earthmoving on this scale without scientific support is folly.” As an example, they highlighted the city of Yan’an, in China’s central Shaanxi province, where planners aim to “double the city’s current area by creating 78.5 square kilometers of flat ground.” While the potential revenue from land sales is high, the scientists argue the risks are higher: Read more...

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