Residents' homes sink and swim
By Bao Xinyan (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-04-14 00:11
A greater number of
people could be forced to evacuate from their hometowns in East China's Jiangsu
Province if the land there sinks further or becomes even more submerged, experts
According to Yin Shilin, senior
engineer at the Suzhou Seismology Bureau, more than 30 families have already
been evacuated from the city in Huangdai County. Suzhou is one of the province's
Drawing substantial amounts of
underground water has caused the ground to sink -- threatening the safety of
residents in several parts of the province, especially Suzhou, Wuxi and
Shanghai and part of its
neighbouring Zhejiang Province are also facing the same problem.
is because the ground in the county is subsiding continuously. It has even
become lower than the surrounding water tables, which causes flooding," Yin
Lu Aji lives in the county's Yuejin Village.
When he built his house in 1988, the ground sill was almost two metres higher
than the surrounding water table.
His house has been
sinking and is now about half a metre below the water table.
In order to stop their homes from being submerged,
residents have to halt rivers outside the village from flowing into the
village's waterways, and then drain water from the waterways.
According to the village's Party secretary, who would only
reveal his name as Zhou, water is drained every two days on average. But when
the rain comes, it is carried out continuously.
Every year, the drainage programme costs the village about
70,000 yuan (US$8,430).
Counties and villages in the
Xiangcheng District of Suzhou are suffering the most. Tens of thousands of
villagers have lived there from generation to generation.
Yin said a river used to pass through the area about 40,000
years ago, with a width of 1 to 3 kilometres and a length of about 90
It disappeared over time due to a buildup of soil and stones,
but it has since started to sink.
In the mid-1980s, some locals discovered that the ground
was subsiding more quickly compared with other districts.
At the end of 1997, the Suzhou Seismology Bureau started a
formal survey of the earth in some villages.
staff was surprised to find that the ancient river was subsiding at a tremendous
rate of more than 20 centimetres per year.
now, the most serious area is one-and-a-half metres lower than in 1997," said
Yin. "And the average speed of subsidence is more than 10 centimetres per
Other districts and cities in the southern
part of Jiangsu Province are also experiencing the same problem.
"If people continue to pump underground water, the problem
will not stop," Yin said.
"Although some measures
have already been taken to solve the problem, the most effective way is still to
stop the pumping of underground water."
provincial government has already issued rules to control and forbid
"Since the end of last year, factories and
individuals have not been allowed to draw on underground water in city areas,"
"And the rule will be enforced for county
areas at the end of 2005."
He said the situation
would improve greatly under the directive.
governments have also been undertaking other programmes to prevent further
"For example, when building the
high-tech zone in the west of Suzhou and the industrial zone in the east, soil
was used to raise both of the areas by more than 1 metre," Yin added.
Statistics show that in the 1930s, there were only two
wells which were more than 150 metres deep in Suzhou, while in the 1990s, there
were more than 300 deep wells.
And the amount of
water pumped from the water table has grown from 500 tons per day to 120,000
tons per day.
"It is mainly because since the middle
of the 1980s, more and more manufacturing plants have been built in the area,
which has had a huge impact on water levels," Yin explained.
"Therefore, protecting the environment will go hand-in-hand
to solving the ground subsidence problem."