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Tuesday, December 22, 2015, 08:47

Construction soil overload blamed

By Zhou Mo in Shenzhen
Construction soil overload blamed
Residents evacuated after the landslide, which hit the Hengtaiyu, Liuxi and Dejicheng industrial parks, find shelter at a tempora ry settlement in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, in South China on Sunday. (Roy Liu / China Daily)

The devastating landslide that hit three of Shenzhen's industrial parks on Sunday was caused by an overload of soil and debris from construction sites, the Ministry of Land and Resources said on its micro blog.

The ministry cited an initial investigation about the disaster in Guangming New District on Sunday morning that left 85 people missing.

The large amount of soil and waste was from the Hongao construction dump site, which came into service last year.

The risk of landslides has existed since the opening of the dump, which was originally a quarry. Plants were badly damaged in the exploitation of the land, leading to serious soil erosion, according to a report released in January by Shenzhen Zongxing Technology on the field's environmental effects.

"The soil erosion could lead to landslides, endangering the safety of hills and slopes," the report warned.

Workers at the site said the soil swept down from a height of 150 meters to the industrial parks, leaving over 100,000 square meters of debris with a depth of up to 10 meters.

"Risks of landslide are already there, and precautionary measures should be taken when soil waste on the hill reaches 50 meters high," a researcher surnamed Ma, who specializes in geological exploration at Shenzhen Investigation & Research Institute Co, said on Monday.

"The height of 150 meters is strong enough to cause fatal damage."

Apart from gauging load capacity, potential safety hazards like gas pipelines and high-voltage power lines should also be taken into consideration when deciding whether a location is suitable for construction waste fields, especially when there are residential communities nearby, Ma said.

Shenzhen, a boomtown in southern China, has seen tremendous growth over the past three decades.

Office and residential buildings are rising rapidly to meet the demand of the city's booming high-tech industries and growing population. A number of subway lines are under construction or about to begin construction in the city, with the aim of adding 11 lines in the next 15 years.

With a huge amount of construction waste being produced and limited land resources, it has become a problem for Shenzhen to find places to dump the waste.

Roughly 30 million cubic meters of construction waste is produced in Shenzhen each year-more than three times the amount in 2007, when it was 9.5 million cubic meters, according to statistics from the city's environmental health department.

An unnamed official at the Shenzhen urban management department told a local newspaper in October last year that it was extremely difficult to find a suitable place to build waste fields. "For a period of time, the problem occupied all my mind and became my occupational disease," said the official.

While the disaster reflects the dumping crisis in Shenzhen, it also raises an alarm in the enactment and enforcement of laws and regulations.

According to a municipal regulation on construction dumps, urban management departments should examine supporting facilities of those locations regularly and urge those responsible for them to conduct regular inspections and maintenance.

"The number of laws and regulations in the country is big, but the quality remains to be improved," said Li Junqiang, a lawyer at the Guangdong Environmental Protection and Construction Law Firm in Shenzhen.

"Some ambiguities and loopholes exist in laws and regulations that may be exploited by some people.

"In addition to improving that, stronger supervision needs to be made by the government to ensure that laws and regulations are actually implemented," Li added.

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