Top urban news, trends and reports curated for the world’s city leaders. Edited by David Hatch

Will sinkholes swallow China’s cities?

A truck got stuck in a sinkhole on a road in Guilin, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, in January. Sudden collapses of earth in dozens of Chinese cities are blamed mostly on over-extraction of water, minerals and oil in urban areas. (CHINA STRINGER NETWORK/Reuters /Landov)

For some of China’s urbanites, smog, congestion and lack of pedestrian infrastructure are the least of their problems. CityMetric reports that in more than 50 Chinese cities, chunks of land large enough to swallow a home or car have suddenly given way. The phenomenon, known as “subsidence,” has caused buildings to tilt and roads to become unpassable.

The problem appears to be mostly self-inflicted. According to the article, the main explanation is over-extraction of groundwater. When too much water is removed from beneath urban areas, the soil can shift, triggering an occasional collapse. Mining and oil extraction also are to blame, along with naturally occurring soil erosion. Click here for CityMetric’s photo compilation of examples of subsidence throughout China. 


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