Several new cities in China will be geoengineering experiments, where developers are leveling hundreds of mountains, filling valleys, and building on top of the newly-flattened land. Now, Chinese scientists and engineers are saying these projects are based on shoddy research, and must be stopped.
Since 2010, several mountainside cities in China, including Lanzhou and Shiyan, have begun expanding. Instead of building on the difficult slopes of local mountain ranges, developers decided to smash up the mountains and use the loose soil to fill in ravines and valleys. This is the very definition of geoengineering, the practice of remolding massive parts of the Earth and its ecosystems. Below, you can see how much Shiyan's landscape has changed in just a short period of time since the city began reshaping mountains.
The problem? The Chinese government, which funds these projects, has done almost no research into their environmental impact.
In an opinion piece published today in Nature, Chang'an University environmental scientists Peiyue Li, Hui Qian and Jianhua Wu say that several mountain-flattening geoengineering projects have already caused countless environmental problems. Soil has run into local rivers, destroying wildlife there; and winds that once tore through the compact mountains with little harm are now stirring up massive dust storms in the loose sands of newly-filled valleys. And water shortages are likely to become a problem. Compact mountain soils, full of vegetation and tree roots, retain a lot more water than the loose soils of a new landfill.