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China to Rebuild Devastated City Somewhere Else

Following the recent earthquake, China plans to rebuild one of its worst-hit cities, Beichuan, in a completely different location. Of the city's 161,000 residents, at least 7,227 died in the quake. The region's Communist Party Chief said:

Safety is the top priority in selecting a new location and reconstruction. We plan to build a monument and a memorial to commemorate the quake victims on the previous location.

The questions of when and where to rebuild devastated areas often comes up after a natural disaster. Following the wildfires in Southern California last Fall, actress Jamie Lee Curtis summed up one line of thought:

We live in a drought, we build houses too close, and then we're shocked when this happens? This is not an act of God. This is an act of man.

After Hurricane Katrina hit low-lying New Orleans, some critics spoke out against the idea of rebuilding the city, which could eventually be hit by a similar hurricane. They argued that New Orleans, built like a bowl and located bellow sea level, is geographically susceptible to similar flooding in the future.

Are humans foolish to build cities in places that are prone to natural disasters? Would China's plan to choose a new location work for a place like New Orleans? How should we mitigate risks of destruction and death, when every place is susceptible to some form of random devastation? How risky is too risky?


Join The Conversation
syako syako 9 years
Jan are you from the area? What, besides the ninth ward obviously, areas are you speaking of? I know that areas like st. bernard's parish are really struggling because they were so hard hit, but from living here and watching it grow and progress for the past three years, I'd say that while there's still a lot to do, a lot of work has been done AND there are a ton of stubborn people in New Orleans who will never move because they think (and rightly so) that New Orleans is the best place on Earth. ;) Plus, I think it's a little presumptuous of you to say that people have moved on.
janneth janneth 9 years
I came in too late so no one will comment on my comment I guess. But y'all say New Orleans should not be moved. But that is a moot point, because not rebuilding is the same as moving it. Now the French Quarter was not touched by Katrina, and it is all fine and dandy and thriving. But many neighborhoods remain completely devestated, and some streets have one single repaired house on them, a house that is all barred up. Those neighborhoods are not coming back, people. Everyone has moved on.
mondaymoos mondaymoos 9 years
I love where I live. We are (almost) disaster free. A little flash-flooding during monsoons and we get fires... that's it.
syako syako 9 years
LA is more of a wasteland than a paradise in my head... but I know not all think of it that way ;) I agree with that thought/book though, but also it should be noted that there's a possibility of disaster everywhere. It's just not something that's unavoidable. And YY, we got better. (say in an English accent) :fogey:
yesteryear yesteryear 9 years
read this book: Ecology of Fear: Los Angeles and the Imagination of Disaster, by Mike Davis. it's all about how we (especially in california) continually build cities in places where we should not be living. that's why we are devastated by earthquakes, wildfires, floods and the like. it's a fascinating take on how california and especially LA are looked to as "paradise" but actually we live in a very hostile environmental situation. i disagree with the idea of moving new orleans, because it seems logistically impossible. but in the case of this chinese city, if the entire place is now rubble, move it. the people need a place to live and judging by how long its taken us to fix things in N.O., and how badly it's hurt the economy there, i'd hate to see another large community have to go through the same thing.
KrisSugar KrisSugar 9 years
i see what you're saying.
syako syako 9 years
I agree with directing new development, but I think that telling someone who lives near a levee that they need to move because the govt's engineers can't find a way (or have the money) to properly build a levee hold the "100 year storm" is preposterous.
syako syako 9 years
Well I'd say it was communist because in a capitalistic society you can own private property. Whereas in communism it's about the state owned property, therefore forcing people to move might be "easier" since the government owns the land anyhow... but I do not know the specifics of the chinese and private property ownership, I know they stray a bit on some of the hard-line communist notions.
stephley stephley 9 years
We could move cities, or direct new development, back from shorelines and flood plains - I'm not sure how the Chinese plan to find a location that doesn't sit on top of a fault line.
KrisSugar KrisSugar 9 years
i don't know why the notion of moving a city is so strongly associated with communism here, aside from the fact that the country that is doing it is communist. i mean, whatever they think is going to work for them, it's not my call. I could see a small town in America being moved, in a place where there was space to do it. or maybe they wouldn't, like in Mississippi. Maybe they'd just rebuild. I just can't see how the idea of moving a city is considered anything but... moving the city. only here, the townspeople would get to decide.
RosaDilia RosaDilia 9 years
I wonder how long it would take the gov't of China to rebuild this city of 100,000+ citizens? I would think that those affected by the quake have started migrating to other cities and rebuilding their lives there.
UnDave35 UnDave35 9 years
We should also point out that many cities in Mississippi were completely destroyed. Much worse than NO, and they are being rebuilt right where they are. Do we move every city that was devastated by some natural disaster? Not a chance. There isn't enough room in America to put everyone. Could this work in a country where the government runs everything? Yes, but only because the people would be forced to follow the will of the government.
KrisSugar KrisSugar 9 years
right. I was appalled when someone suggested moving New Orleans. That would just be idiotic. where would you put it, anyway? I think what happened in NO was definitely a result of poor planning and maintenance of the levees, and it could happen again. But some people act like it's all over, like there's no point in even trying to rebuild it. I don't think there's any need to be so pessimistic. anyone can see that New Orleans is coming back and thriving. it's just going to take some time and positive people!
syako syako 9 years
No I understand and agree. It just would not work for New Orleans AT ALL. One being there's no other place to go that isn't already incorporated and second the HISTORY and third the river and ports are huge in the economy.
KrisSugar KrisSugar 9 years
You know what I mean, Sy? I think it would depend on the lay of the land. For instance, if a town of 2,000 on the Oklahoma prairie is flattened, it wouldn't be so much of a stretch to rebuild it a mile down the road. but if the city is very spread out, or in rugged terrain, or practically IN the water like New Orleans, that would be impossible.
Shopaholichunny Shopaholichunny 9 years
I agree with Syako.
KrisSugar KrisSugar 9 years
you can move some cities, i think. New Orleans would NOT be one of them. It would change the very essence of what NO is, even if you COULD move it! Particularly, cities on water would be kind of complicated to move. but in the case of little towns that have been devastated by tornadoes, I think you can possibly "move" them. And this city in China is probably in such devastation that they have no other choice.
syako syako 9 years
:rant: These rhetorical questions make me so mad! What do you guys think? New Orleans is just a city sitting in the middle of open land everywhere else? You can't just move a city. :oy: It might work for COMMUNIST China but not here, sorry. How about we put REAL money in the existing levees, help with the coastal erosion and maybe then defenses will be where they SHOULD have been in 2005 and a lot of this destruction would have been avoided.
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