In a new paper for Nature, via the Guardian, three environmental scientists from China’s Chang’an University raise concerns about China’s practice of removing the tops of mountains to create more land for construction.
The most ambitious of these projects involves flattening 700 mountains around the central Chinese city of Lanzhou to create more than 250 square kilometers of flat ground. Another, around Yan'an in Shaanxi province, “will double the city's current area by creating 78.5 square kilometers of flat ground.” Other projects have flattened land around Chongqing, Shiyan, and Yichang, part of Beijing’s push to build up China’s less developed western regions and allow for an influx of millions of people from rural areas into cities.
The authors write that “the consequences of these unprecedented programs have not been thought through — environmentally, technically or economically. There has been too little modeling of the costs and benefits of land creation.”
Mountaintop removal has controversially bene done before in the United States for the purpose of strip mining, but never on the scale of what’s being done in China now. According to the authors, the process is already contributing to air and water pollution as well as soil erosion. In Yan’an, where the land is being created on soft loess, there could be a risk of structural collapse. China hasn’t been immune from the growing number of deadly landslides we’ve seen around the world in recent years.
China is still coping today with the environmental impact of the deforestation and soil erosion caused by Mao’s Great Leap Forward. The consequences of Beijing’s efforts to reshape the land tend to last for a long time.
TODAY IN SLATE
The Democrats’ War at Home
How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?
Secret Service Director Julia Pierson Resigns
Piper Kerman on Why She Dressed Like a Hitchcock Heroine for Her Prison Sentencing
Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10
Homeland Is Good Again! For Now.
Cringing. Ducking. Mumbling.
How GOP candidates react whenever someone brings up reproductive rights or gay marriage.
How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully
On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.