Photos from Netease
If a horrific, “unforeseen and natural” disaster happens in China these days, what is the actual betting that it was, in fact, both man-made and foreseeable? Well, unless it’s a direct hit with an asteroid, the answer is: quite high.
Now Tibetan poet and writer Tsering Woeser has compiled an impressive dossier that shows that the Zhouqu landslide in Gansu Province that has killed (so far) 702, with over 1,000 still missing, was likely precipitated by a variety of devastating ecological activities by – yes – man.
The report (which is GFWed) blames deforestation, mining and topsoil erosion going back to the “Great Leap Backwards” in 1958. The annual cost of illegal logging alone is now 100,000 m2 of forestland. Even up until the 1980s, this was still a heavily wooded province; now dark-mudded mountain slopes stand bare and landslides are frequent.
Even worse, Zhouqu – a tiny county which consists of 20 towns and 130,000 people – has signed up to between 47 to 53 hydroelectric construction projects in recent years, with 41 completed and 12 approaching deadline, according to government data. This has caused 749,000 tons of water and soil erosion and over 3,000,000 cubic meters of bulldozed material. A Lanzhou University report concluded four years ago that these activities have made the whole area a volatile danger-zone.
It seems Zhouqu, at the foot of a valley of crumbling cliffs and depopulated slopes, never stood a chance and should have been abandoned years ago.
That information appears to have bypassed the People’s Daily who assured readers the tragedy was actually attributable to a “perfect storm” of natural events, including “soft” “weathered” rock, heavy rainfall and drought and the Wuchuan (or Sichuan) earthquake. Interesting, given that there’s a weight of recent evidence linking the 2008 national disaster with the Zipingpu dam and China’s obsession with harnessing waterpower.
Over to oil-steeped Dalian, meanwhile, where the usual round of backslapping that follows a regional “success” has appalled critics, who found a self-congratulatory award ceremony by the China National Petroleum Corporation both insensitive and ill-timed, to put it mildly.