Great Wall Under Threat
Image Credit: Matt Barber

Great Wall Under Threat


It has been voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World (although despite the myth, it can’t usually be seen from space) and snakes almost nine thousand kilometres across 17 of China’s provinces. But after facing hundreds of years of conflict, upheaval and devastating sandstorms, large stretches of the Great Wall are now facing a new threat.

China’s official Xinhua News Agency has reported that part of the Wall has collapsed as a result of illegal mining. The damaged section of the Wall is located in a remote part of Hebei Province, about 200 kilometres southwest of Beijing, Xinhua says, adding that the region is dotted with a dozen small mines, some of which operate as close as 100 metres to the wall.

‘Damage to the Great Wall by mining had previously been reported in recent years in Inner Mongolia, China’s main coal reserve region, but the Hebei case suggests the problem might be common across all regions, experts say,’ Xinhua notes.

‘In Hebei, about 20 percent of the walls and towers can be rated “well or fairly preserved,” while more than 70 percent have cracks, stand on shaky ground, or are about to collapse, provincial cultural protection officials said.’

The problem adds a new dimension to the debate over the extent of the damage that China’s rapid economic development and urbanization has caused, and where the country should go next. Decades of poor agricultural practices such as overgrazing have speeded up desertification in the country, which in turn has made sandstorms an increasingly regular occurrence. Earlier this year, a senior Chinese official warned that it could take 300 years for the country to turn back the country’s advancing deserts. As a result of the storms, miles of the Wall have been turned into what Xinhua has previously described as ‘mounds of dirt.’

‘The exploitation of the mineral resources falls under the jurisdiction of the Land Resources Bureau, so if the bureau issues mining permits to the mining companies, they can legally extract the mineral resources within areas designated in the contract,’ Reuters quoted Dong Yaohui, vice chairman of the Great Wall Society, as saying on the mining issue.

‘But in this process the Land Resources Bureau does not take into consideration the Great Wall as a factor, or consult the opinion of the Department of Cultural Heritage as there is no rule requiring a consultation as such. So this creates the mess in organization.’

Officials have long recognized the problem, and the Cultural Heritage department is given funds to help protect the Wall. But according to Dong, money isn’t the issue.

‘If you just put down a rule requiring that mining cannot take place within a specific distance from the Great Wall, would that cost money?’ he said. ‘No, it wouldn't cost anything.’

In 2007, the Great Wall was named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World after a vote that the organizers said attracted more than 100 million participants.

October 23, 2011 at 17:56

The sheer amount of irony in this. It wasn’t invading nomads that destroy one of the most impressive monuments in the world, it’s greed.

October 22, 2011 at 23:10

Steps were no doubt been taken to protect the Great Wall from damaging beyond recognition.
Unfortunately, the “steps” taken or steps intended were and are too few and far in between as we speak.
Cultural relics and historical landmarks can and will only be promoted and carried out by the Governments at all levels and social organizations(NGOs).

October 22, 2011 at 23:01

Today, the numbers of cars and trucks on the roads are several hundreds or thousands time the number compared to pre-1978. At the same time, China’s traffic accidents are at the top of the list Worldwide. Traffic related injuries and deaths are also earn China at the top spot. Traffic rule and regulations are not observed by many motorists on China’s local roads and expressways. Of course, these may have to do with the lack of traffic enforcement police and traffic signals or signs on many roads and intersections.
The enomious task in dealing with motor vehicle and traffic related issues is indeed troubling for China at this time. It seems as though roads and the availability of cars for people have charged too far ahead of the mechanisms (laws) to manage this unprecedented and rapid growth and modernization.
Optimistically speak, all of these traffic issues were experienced by the US after WWII, at least China has a place where they can send experts and scholars to learn from what is available from the US Department of Transportation or DOT.

October 22, 2011 at 22:32

yang zi,
“Helping others is the main theme” not just in schools,but prevalent across the vast land called-China. This cultural element existed in Chinese society from the past,now, and will forever be part of what make the “Middle Kingdom” so unique yet complexing for many to understand. However, once an individual is truely grasping the many elements(intangible and tangible)that make up the multi-ethnic and multi-cultural complexities and simplicities that is China, they will instinctively realize what they are witnessing is a rich and practical ways in which the Chinese(Han and all other minorities) are conducting their day-to day life.
Likewise, “helping others ” is in no way excusively Chinese, this basic human behavior exists in every society around the World. Occasionally, some individuals regardless of their ethnicity, resorted to imply that certain people in some social environment were only care about themselves or their own skins. In doing so, they believed they could demonize that particular group or groups by asserting in that misleading and deceptive manner. Little did they know that they were actually exposing their own dark and chaotic inner self.
Finally, the tragic incident that took place in Southern China will serve to raise more awareness to China’s urban cultures and the lack of generosities or kindness reflected urban living in an ugly picture.
P.S. This is only one incident among many China as a nation, should be tackling as the economic(2011 not 1978),technological(more cars and trucks on the roads than 1978),societal(the people’s demands in life are vastly different than 1978),and cultural(the relaxed and slow-pace life and works are a thing of the pre-1978 era),and many more……………….aspects are becoming more numerious and complicated as China modernizes. In short, ” The same kind of rice is eaten by the vast number of different people.”

yang zi
October 22, 2011 at 16:27

This is a fitting title for China’s current situation. (btw, my home village is on the front lines of western China. The village next to ours is called Hu Jia Bian, means Foreigners border. There lies Ming great wall, these walls are made of clay, not bricks.)

I think China should get rid of Peaceful Rise, instead, call it Stable Progress. The society need repair, the inequality need to go away. Forget about GDP, let’s concentrate on social development. Even if it means more socialist ways. When I was growing up, helping others is the main theme in school.

Mr Khan
October 22, 2011 at 15:52

Well are there any steps taken to ensure it’s safety?

October 21, 2011 at 23:32

I can see ‘adopting a Great Wall’ is imminent when this news spread.

October 21, 2011 at 21:46

Protections of cultural relics in China ramain to be far from adequate under any curcumstances as we speak. The country,officials,scholars,and the public are yet to take a seriuos attitude toward the preservations of historical,cultural,and some of the immediate environmental effects from the developnments that is currently in over-drive mode.
Will China as a nation,pay more attentions to the effects resulted from minings,neglects,and abuses in the long run? The answer will be definitely YES once the needs and spirits to slow down,prevent,and stop these degradations to the land reach the point where the nation no longer tolerable to ignore.
On the human side of the issue, China’s “One child Policy” should be another threat to Chinese civilization on the basis of family unit that will surely have a long lasting effect on the nation. The aging population and the economic and social effects affecting the nation in the long run.
So far,there is no discussions on the topic eminating from the scholastic circle on this very important issue. After more than three decades of this family planning policy and the un-spoken or un-touchable topic remain to be on the side line even though many of the current social problems stem from the “one child policy” and its ramification including the preference for boys over girls.
It is time for China to start allocating some needed attention to this issue however difficult they may be since this is matter of ” Human,land ,and heaven”.

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