Preparing for floods

Updated: 2013-04-03 07:15

(China Daily)

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A recent document issued by the State Council urging city authorities to improve sewage systems and flood-prevention and control facilities is the government's overdue effort to reduce the death toll and damage resulting from floods.

According to the document, city administrators should devise rainstorm-response and anti-flood emergency plans before this year's rainy season arrives, which usually ranges from May to August across the country's southern and northern regions.

They are also asked to complete rainwater and sewage diversion systems and to upgrade their underground drainage pipelines where necessary within five years. The document also urges an adequate drainage and flood prevention system be set up within a period of about 10 years.

City authorities are also demanded to carry out an overhaul of their drainage capabilities and this work will be included in the broader performance assessment of officials. To facilitate the work, the country's meteorological, water conservancy, traffic, public security and other departments are urged to improve their information-sharing and coordination mechanisms.

Given that the annual rainy season is only weeks away, the State Council's initiative is an urgently needed mandate for city authorities to take action to ensure their sewage systems and drainage capabilities are up to the task.

A heavy rainstorm in Beijing in July last year, which killed 77 people, including a driver who failed to escape from his car when it was submerged in the dip below an overpass, exposed the weakness of the drainage systems in China's major cities.

But as well as the defects in the city's drainage system, the devastating floods in the capital also highlighted the problem of decision-makers' putting excessive emphasis on economic development indicators and their neglect of urban management as it contributes less to their performance assessment than GDP figures.

The State Council's latest move is a reminder that our city planners need to change their approach and pay attention to the urban environment in which people live.

Last year's floods in Beijing should also serve as a lesson to China's authorities that modern cities should not only include bustling business districts with gleaming skyscrapers, they also require good management, particularly amid emergencies.

(China Daily 04/03/2013 page8)