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China's Major Cities Are Sinking: Key Causes and Impacts



  Apr 26, 2024

China's Major Cities Are Sinking: Key Causes and Impacts



1. Why are many of China’s major cities sinking?

The sinking, or subsidence, of land in China’s major cities is primarily due to groundwater depletion. Other factors include the weight of urban structures, transport systems, and underground mining activities.

2. Which areas in China are most affected by subsidence?

Subsidence is impacting both coastal and inland cities across China. Cities facing severe subsidence include Beijing, Fuzhou, Hefei, Xi’an, Kunming, Nanning, and Guiyang. These cities are located in various regions, showcasing widespread geographical impacts.

3. How significant is the subsidence problem in these cities?

About 16% of the area in China’s major cities is sinking rapidly at a rate faster than 10 millimeters per year, while approximately 45% is experiencing moderate subsidence, with a rate greater than 3 millimeters annually.

4. What long-term effects could subsidence have on China’s coastal regions?

Subsidence, coupled with sea-level rise due to climate change, could cause 22-26% of China’s coastal lands to fall below sea level by 2120. This poses serious threats to populations living in these areas.

5. What strategies have been successful in mitigating subsidence in other parts of the world?

Cities like Tokyo and Shanghai have successfully mitigated subsidence by implementing regulations that limit groundwater extraction. Tokyo reduced its rate from 240 mm a year in the 1960s to about 10 mm a year in the early 2000s, and Shanghai reduced its sinking rate significantly after similar measures.

6. What are potential solutions to address the subsidence issue?

Long-term solutions may involve sustained control of groundwater extraction, stricter environmental regulations, and possibly the use of dike systems to prevent flooding in areas where cities’ elevations are falling.

7. How does climate change affect subsidence?

Climate change can exacerbate subsidence by affecting precipitation patterns, leading to increased droughts which in turn may cause more groundwater extraction. This vicious cycle contributes to further subsidence in urban areas.

These FAQs highlight the critical nature of land subsidence in China and the potential future challenges it presents to urban and coastal development.



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