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The environmental cost of China's addiction to cement The environmental cost of China's addiction to cement

Why China's concrete addition is costing the Earth.

The environmental cost of China's addiction to cement

The use of concrete exploded to fuel China's rise. Now the costs of this weighty material are being counted.

China's cities are sinking – apparent victims of their own success. Large swathes of the country's population now live in major cities that are subsiding at more than 3mm (0.1in) per year, according to a recent study. Some areas are sinking by more than 45mm (1.7in) each year, such as parts of Beijing. And by 2120, around a quarter of China's coastal land will be beneath sea-level, the researchers predict.

While there are a number of reasons for the subsidence, the researchers have pointed to the rapid rate of urban development as among the culprits. The huge amounts of groundwater abstraction needed to support urban populations alongside the weight of the buildings and city infrastructure were singled out by the researchers as contributing to the sinking.

It follows similar research in New York City that found the enormous weight of the concrete, glass and steel – an estimated 762 million tonnes – in the city's skyscrapers were contributing to subsidence of the land they sit upon.

Both studies have shone a light on some of the unexpected effects of urban development. But the Chinese research in particular has highlighted just how rapidly China's cities have developed and the scale of urban expansion in the city.


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