Beijing’s Thirst Is Literally Sinking The Entire City At Record Rates

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Craig Boudreau Vice Reporter
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Apparently air pollution isn’t the only problem China needs to deal with, now the capital city of Beijing is sinking at a rate of four inches a year, according to a study published in the journal Remote Sensing.

Using satellite imagery and GPS data, geologists looked at topographical data from 2003-2010 and found China’s capital city is sinking at a fast pace, according to a Sunday article published from CNN.

Even more troubling is the fact that its central business district, Chaoyang, appears to be one of the regions sinking fastest, according to a Monday article from Grist.

One reason for the rapid sinking is that industry and agriculture are literally sucking the water out from underneath the city. Chinese state media outlet Sina estimates that Beijing requires 3.5 billion liters of water per year, a full two thirds of that comes from beneath the city.

As that water is removed, the now dried soil compacts and the city sinks due to a process called subsidence. Another issue helping Beijing to sink is the new construction taking place. As more buildings spring up, the dried soil is pressed that much further.

TIME reported in 2012 that the Shanghai Geological Research Institute claimed the weight of skyscrapers was responsible for 30 percent of the subsidence.

“Usually groundwater pumping is the key factor,” Jimmy Jiao, earth science professor at Hong Kong University told TIME in 2012, “But in Shanghai, development is also important because the building density is high, and most of the high-rise buildings are sitting on the areas with soft soil.”

What’s more, China Daily reported in 2012 that 50 Chinese cities are all facing the subsidence problem plaguing Beijing. China Daily reported that 30,000 square miles have dropped nearly 8 inches. China Daily also reported that 1,000 wells have been closed in Xi’an, capital of Shaanxi, after Chinese officials noticed the land around Xi’an had dropped nearly 8 inches since 1959.

“If we didn’t control this, the ground would collapse” Liu Yi, a government geologist told ABC News, “The damage would be unbelievable — floods and wrecked buildings.”

To combat the water issue, China has already undertaken a $63 billion water diversion project called the South-North Water Diversion. Started in 2014, the project aims to divert water from the South of China to the more arid North.

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