Dams and Earthquakes

China to draw natural disaster “risk map” to assist future urban planning

(September 23, 2010) Chinese authorities are drawing up a national natural disaster “risk map” in a bid to improve planning of urban construction projects in western China to avoid potential catastrophes.
“We’ve started many natural disaster risk evaluation projects in China since August this year,” Zou Ming, director of the disaster relief department of China’s Civil Affairs Ministry, told Xinhua in an interview.Just like the census, Zou pointed out the natural disaster risk evaluation will be of great value in China’s future urban construction policy making.Zhou said the “risk map” would help city planners build cities and towns while avoiding danger-prone locations, such as areas where earthquakes, floods and mudslides are likely to occur.China’s vast western regions have experienced three major natural disasters in recent three years: An 8.0-magnitude earthquake that hit Wenchuan, Sichuan Province in May, 2008; a 7.1-magnitude earthquake that jolted Yushu, Qinghai Province in April, 2010, and devastating mudslides which claimed nearly 2,000 lives in Zhouqu, Guansu Province in August 2010.

Such repeated disasters have caused western China’s city planners to look for a “risk map” for future city designing.

Earlier this month, southwest China’s Sichuan Province issued a circular requesting all cities and counties submit an evaluation report, specifically asking for suggestions on improvements and relocation proposals be submitted before Oct. 30.

The province was reviewing post-quake rebuilding projects to ensure new homes and public facilities are safe and built away from areas prone to geological disasters.

“We’ll re-study all reconstruction projects to double-check their safety,” the document noted, “so as to make sure they are located away from earthquake rupture belts and areas prone to floods and geological disasters.”

The circular further said the provincial government would readjust some rebuilding plans based upon the results of the evaluation.

China’s western regions have been developed quickly during the past ten years. Along with fast-paced economic growth, more people also moved into towns and cities, accelerating the increase in urban populations, Shi Peijun, deputy director of National Committee of Disaster Relief, said.

But due to lack of a “risk map”, many people did not know if they were living in areas prone to natural disasters, said Shi.

Take Zhouqu County, for example, Shi said, which is located in a valley where landslides often happen. It is not suitable to build a county with a population of 47,000 people here, Shi noted.

“Now, avoiding possible dangers and utilizing land rationally is at the top of government agendas,” Shi said.

“That’s what we gained from the disasters,” he said.

Zhang Xiang, English.news.cn, September 23, 2010
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