Landslide accident taints glamour of Shenzhen

Source:Global Times Published: 2015-12-22 23:38:01

The landslide that hit an industrial park in Guangming district in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province on Sunday has buried or toppled 33 buildings, with 76 people still missing. It's rare to see a mountain of construction debris and waste cause such a massive loss.

At the forefront of China's reform and opening up, Shenzhen is one of the most developed cities in the country. But the landslide has exposed the city's chaotic governance underneath its glamour. The Shenzhen landslide follows a similar disaster in Tianjin where a large warehouse storing toxic chemicals exploded in August.

Earlier, a deadly stampede occurred on the New Year's eve of 2015 on the Bund, a popular tourist and public location in Shanghai and even a showcase of modern China.

Mega cities like Tianjin, Shanghai and Shenzhen have all seen major disasters that could have been prevented from happening.

These unsettling accidents have repeatedly exposed the flaws of China's rapid modernization.  Frequent inspections of production safety are followed by striking accidents, making the whole society feel that the emphasis on safe production and strict accountability has failed to achieve its purpose. 

It's not entirely reasonable to think that government officials don't attach sufficient importance to safety because they are not adequately punished for negligence.

Of course, if dismissing officials can prevent major accidents, that will be an easier solution. However, it's not so easy to rid China of major accidents.

The Shenzhen disaster has raised a slew of questions. Why the selection of the location for the mass of construction waste was not based on careful consideration? Why there was no safety appraisal of the trash mountain? Answers to these questions are inescapably linked with the economics of waste treatment.

A real problem is that most people in China are not willing to pay for the incremental safety cost and their demand for safety is not strong enough to halt some economic activities. In fact, the majority of people seek to walk a fine line between wealth and safety.

China needs to significantly increase the cost of production to ensure the conditions for safety and reduce the occurrence rate of accidents.

This needs to be stipulated by law and carefully implemented. Only when all of the local governments conduct monitoring in accordance with high standards and most people attach more importance to safety, China's national economy can prioritize safety, and progress can be made in promoting production safety.

So far, the regulations on safe production are carried out in a top-down manner, with fragile social foundation and particularly weak support from economic operation. In addition to accountability, more social change is essential for China.

Posted in: Observer

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