China has taken to cutting off the tops of mountains in order to accommodate its increasing population.
According to a report in Nature, local governments started removing the tops of mountains about 10 years ago in order to fill valleys so there is more land to build upon.
However, the report said moving land in this way could be dangerous – no research was carried out to establish the effect on the environment, economics or the effectiveness of techniques used.
Prof Peiyue Li, from Chang’an University’s School of Environmental Science and Engineering, said, “Because there have been no land creation projects like this before in the world, there are no guidelines.
“Mountainous cities such as Yan’an are mostly located in relatively flat valleys. The valleys are narrow and limit the development of the cities – and huge population density is also a factor. The most concerning issue is the safety of constructing cities on the newly created land.
He added, “Yan’an, for example, is the largest project ever attempted on land that is composed of thick windblown silt. Such soft soils can subside when wet, causing structural collapse and land subsidence. Building on such soils is quite dangerous and it would take a very long time for the ground base to become stable.”
The researchers noted that land creation projects are already causing air and water pollution, soil erosion and subsidence, ignoring environmental regulations “because local governments tend to prioritize making money over protecting nature”.
They added that the government should include environmental scientists and economists in assessing the plans, to make sure that the economic risks are explored and measures to reduce pollution and protect the environment are taken into account.