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Nation steps up vigilance against landslides
( 2003-10-14 00:19) (China Daily)

Vigilance against geological disasters, such as landslides and mud-rock flows is being given a high priority by the Ministry of Land and Resources and the Ministry of Railways as such disasters have caused 500 million yuan (US$60.4 million) in economic losses this year.

"Evaluation of geological conditions will from now on be an indispensable factor in preparing for new rail construction,'' states a circular issued jointly by the two ministries yesterday.

According to the circular, there have been more than 20 major geological disasters along 12 railway lines across the country this year, resulting in more than 500 hours of rail traffic interruption.

"Some of these accidents, and the losses they caused could have been avoided, if more effort had been put into prevention work,'' Jiang Jianjun, director of the Geological Environment Department of the Ministry of Land and Resources, told China Daily.

In justifying this newly adopted measure, Jiang cited a fatal landslide earlier this year in Sansui County in Southwest China's Guizhou Province, in which 35 workers were killed.

Jiang believes those workers might not have been killed, if they had not built their makeshift housing under a precipitous cliff, which was destabilized by heavy rainfall, while constructing a road winding through precipitous mountains.

"People should be on the alert for conditions that might lead to geological disasters. But unfortunately, not many of them are,'' said Jiang.

"Most construction projects, no matter whether they involve housing or infrastructure facilities, are carried out without paying attention to local geological conditions that might be prone to geological disasters.''

Referring to railways again, Jiang said the new measure was "a necessary precaution to avoid worse accidents from taking place.''

Apart from the evaluation of geological conditions, the new circular also states that the Ministry of Land and Resources will tighten its control over mining along railways, while the Ministry of Railways will install "proper'' monitoring measures to ensure new rail construction does not lead to the destabilization of land forms along any rail lines.

Although official figures are not yet available regarding the country's total losses resulting from geological disasters for this year, Jiang admitted this year's excessive and concentrated rainfall has triggered off more geological disasters than it did last year.

Geological disasters of various kinds cost China nearly 2 billion yuan (US$241.5 million) last year.

By the end of this July, when most Chinese regions saw the wrap-up of their rainy season, over 300 people had died in about 500 geological disasters, with direct economic damage estimated at 150 million yuan (US$18.1 million).

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