Hidden danger hazards big city living

Updated: 2012-10-07 09:19

By He Na (China Daily)

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Hidden danger hazards big city living

A cyclist struggles through flooding caused by a devastating downpour in Beijing on July 21, which led to the deaths of 79 people. Experts blamed outdated drainage systems. [Photo/China Daily]

Drowning in problems

Outdated drainage systems have been a massive contributing factor to urban residents' woes this year, not least in Beijing, where 79 died in flooding caused by a storm on July 21.

One man was killed when his car was trapped beneath an overpass on the Second Ring Road. The road was inundated despite a giant pump running at full speed to clear the floodwater.

Hidden danger hazards big city living

The death toll prompted a mix of shock and anger among citizens, who demanded an explanation from authorities. Although the city's heaviest rainfall in six decades was the direct cause, many people found it hard to understand how a modern metropolis could be turned into a lake in a day.

"Beijing revealed its true self after just one rainstorm," said Sun Xin, 22, a web designer for an IT company in the capital's Zhongguancun area. "If this can happen here, I can't imagine what would have happened if the storm had struck another city."

Beijing's drainage system consists of 5,100 km of pipeline, roughly the equivalent to the distance between the capital and Bangkok. Nearly 1,200 km is at least 30 years old, with some of it dating back six decades. This is typical for most cities, experts say.

"As well as (drainage), the surface collapse is more related to poor urban planning and management, both before and after construction," Shan Qingqing, an associate researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences' Institute for Urban and Environmental Studies, was quoted as saying by the online edition of People's Daily.

Li Xiaoxi, deputy director of Beijing Normal University's academic committee, agreed and added in the same report: "City construction not only needs to focus on the 'face' (above ground), but also the underground. Urban planning and emergency measures all need to be improved.

"In the meantime," he said, "it also needs to be made clear who is responsible (in the event of an accident)."