Experts call for better planning in China's mudslide zones

21:47, August 24, 2010      

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A member of a team studying the reconstruction of northwest China's mudslide-devastated Zhouqu County says better planning could prevent a repeat of such disasters.

"Local geological conditions should be reassessed and the risks of natural disasters reviewed before drawing up plans for reconstruction," Wu Faquan, director of Engineering Geomechanics Lab at the Institute of Geology and Geophysics, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), told Xinhua.

Wu said early warning was no longer a technical problem. "What really matters is a well-devised planning."

Speaking Tuesday, the day before leaving for Zhouqu County as a member of an inspection team formed by the Chinese Academy of Sciences to make detailed plans for its reconstruction, Wu said it was important to systematically research and divide the disaster-prone areas in Zhouqu into different zones based on risk.

"If we were going to rebuild Zhouqu on its original site, we would have to evaluate which areas have more potential for geological disasters, take precautions and remove people to safer areas," said Wu.

"Also, projects including weirs and tree planting on hillsides can help prevent geological disasters," he said.

Weirs, constructed across minor channels or drainage ditches, can lower the speed of water flow during floods or mudslides.

Zhouqu was seriously damaged by rain-triggered mudslides on Aug. 8, which killed at least 1,435 people, with 330 still missing.

No official announcement has yet been made as to where the county seat would be rebuilt.

"Enhancing early warning is vital for the campaign against geological hazards," said Zhou Pinggen, director of geological hazard survey and monitoring at the China Institute of Geo-Environment Monitoring. "So we have to work with meteorological departments to launch early warning systems.

"We hope to complete the warning systems at county level in a year or two. Generally, all the hilly and mountainous areas will be covered by the end of next year," he said.



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