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July 23, 2011

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Officials cite danger in lack of data on pipelines

A LACK of documentation about the city's underground gas, power and other utility pipelines is posing a risk to public safety and making it difficult to ensure safe operations of future urban construction projects, local experts warned yesterday.

Officials with the Shanghai Surveying and Mapping Administrative Office said their recent investigation showed the city's underground pipelines extend to at least 100,000 kilometers but only 45 percent of them are recorded in a government database. The database is supposed to provide information to rescuers responding to emergencies such as underground gas blasts. The information is also necessary for urban planners to make decisions on new construction projects.

Local legislators said they are now preparing a new law to improve documentation and management efforts of the city's underground pipelines.

Officials with the mapping office said that in recent years many accidents, including gas explosions, flooding and power blackouts, were caused by digging during construction projects that accidentally hit underground pipelines.

Builders either did not know about the pipelines because they were not recorded or they had inaccurate information about their locations, said Zhu E, the office's deputy director.

The mapping office faces a serious shortage of information to improve the database, especially with some older pipelines.

The official urged different government departments to coordinate and offer help to the office to advance efforts to improve the database.

A special period of local history is partly responsible for the problem. In the early decades of the last century, some colonial urban designers drew up and built the underground pipeline facilities inside their own concession areas.

Some of these facilities are still in service now but the information is difficult to trace.

"In Huangpu District, many of the pipelines were paved underground before the 1940s," Zhu said. "The network is complicated and information is scarce."

Zhu urged managers of the city's newly constructed residential projects to report locations and contents of their underground facilities to the authority.

He also said it has become a trend for builders to use non-metallic materials, primarily plastic such as PVC pipe, to complete the underground pipelines. "But once they are buried, it's impossible for us to use radar system to detect them in the future," he explained.


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