China Flattening 700 Mountains To Build City

Mark Stone, China Correspondent
China Flattening 700 Mountains To Build City

The Chinese are planning to move mountains to build a new city - literally.

According to one of the country’s biggest construction firms, 700 mountains will be flattened at a cost of £2.2bn to make way for the new city.

Five hundred square miles of land in the Lanzhou New Area, 50 miles from the city of Lanzhou, will be developed into a massive new development zone.

Local government officials, quoted by the state-run China Daily newspaper, claim it will increase the Gross Domestic Product in the area to £27bn in the next 17 years.

China has put renewed focus into the development of the country’s traditionally poor interior.

"The establishment of the Lanzhou New Area marks the country's latest effort to accelerate development of the western regions," Qin Yucai, a regional director for the National Development and Reform Commission, told a recent news conference in Beijing.

Lanzhou is 600 miles to the southwest of Beijing.

Lying on the Yellow River, it has long been described as the most polluted city in China. It retained that title last year in a World Health Organisation survey.

The city is also in an area of China which is particularly short of water, leading many critics to write the project off.

Unfazed by the criticism though, the developers have released a computer-animated video more than five minutes long in which their vision is realised.

The man behind the project is Yan Jiehe, a 52-year-old, who is one of China’s top five richest people.

The mountain-moving plan does prompt a certain sense of deja vu.

Fifteen years ago, in November 1997, Sky News visited Lanzhou and reported on identical plans to move hills, fill in valleys and flatten the land for construction.

The scale was smaller but the idea behind it was identical.

The claim back then was that this would improve the environment by allowing the east wind to blow across the newly flattened land.

But it doesn’t seem to have worked. The city was the most polluted place in China in 1997 and it still is.