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Forum plea for safer cities

THERE were calls for city planners to be more aware of the potential dangers from flooding and earthquakes at a World Expo theme forum that ended yesterday in Wuxi, Jiangsu Province

The two-day forum attracted about 700 participants to a discussion on how science and technology innovations will aid cities in the future.

Supachai Panitchpakdi, secretary-general of tnhe United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, said the mega-city was a leading phenomena in developing countries, bringing not only huge pressure on the local environment, but also higher costs to both society and individuals.

A mega-city is a city with more than 10 million inhabitants or 2,000 inhabitants per square kilometer.

"The mega-cities might be crowded and less hygienic. Residents in slums might not have well-built homes, sufficient drinking water, proper drainage systems and other benefits that cities should provide," he said.

"Many cities are expanding with hardened roads that would not let water permeate through and without sufficient drainage systems," said Shan Chunchang, chairman of the Emergency Management Expert Group under China's State Council.

"After the serious flooding in China in 1998, China has paid much attention to flood-fight work in major rivers, especially the Yangtze River, the Zhujiang (Pearl) River and the Heilongjiang River, but the weakest link showed up in small rivers and urban drainage systems as well as agricultural water conservancy," Shan said.

"Compared with flooding in 1998, now China is witnessing more flooding caused by rainfall in certain limited areas in a very short time.

"The flash flooding often occurred in cities where hardened roads and insufficient drainage systems could not let the water drain quickly," he said.

"China is experiencing quick urbanization and thus cities will be more vulnerable to natural disasters.

"For example, blizzards could easily cut off roads or power and affect many residents," Shan said.

China has improved its disaster rescue abilities, but the country still lags behind developed countries, especially in its capabilities in assisting victims following earthquakes, Shan said.

A major city should take all steps to implement disaster relief programs, he said.

And Shan added: "City planners should not let buildings grow in height while providing no drainage systems underground or disaster-relief facilities."


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