China Flattens Mountains for Expansion; Environmental Concerns Grow

By By Kevin Byrne, Staff Writer
July 17, 2014, 12:48:21 AM EDT

One of the most ambitious construction endeavors ever seen continues in China as mountaintops are being flattened and valleys are being filled to create space for new cities.

The Chinese government is looking to move more rural residents to urban areas to develop a more modern economy, according to a recent Associated Press story.

The size and scope of the project is something that has never been seen before, and many questions are being raised about the long-term ramifications.

In the city of Lanzhou, located in the northwestern province of Gansu, 700 mountains are being flattened as part of a massive expansion project called the “Lanzhou New Area.” The city is expected to have a population of 100,000 and will lead to an "environmentally sustainable economy based on energy-saving industries," according to state-controlled TV. Projects are also underway in the cities of Chongqing, Shiyan, Yichang, Yan'an and Guizhou.

In a recent report published in the science journal Nature, Chinese researchers Peiyue Li, Hui Qian and Jianhua Wu, all from the School of Environmental Science and Engineering at Chang'an University, said that the project has not been thought through “environmentally, technically or economically.”

The report stated that about one-fifth of the Chinese population lives in the mountainous areas of the country, where land development is in “short supply.”

Mountaintop flattening is common in the strip mining in parts of the eastern United States, but it is not on the same scope as the building occurring in China. The peaks being flattened can be as high as 150 meters (492 feet).

"Land creation by cutting off hilltops and moving massive quantities of dirt is like performing major surgery on Earth's crust," the research group said.

Air pollution is already a serious concern in China, and this project is continuing to add negative environmental impacts, the researchers said.


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