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Beijing sinking at an alarming rate

Beijing's Chaoyang business district is sinking by as much as 11 cm (4 inches) per year. (WaitForLight /

Beijing already struggles with foul air, congested roads and polluted rivers. Now it has another problem to contend with: Ground that’s rapidly sinking.

Euan McKirdy reports for CNN that parts of China’s capital — including its business districts — are dropping by up to 11 centimeters (4 inches) annually.

New research published this month in the journal Remote Sensing documents the worrisome trend. The scientists relied on satellite images and GPS data to analyze the megacity’s topography, according to CNN. The crumbling soil is blamed on overzealous extraction of groundwater as demand skyrockets due to rapid urbanization. Many of Beijing’s subterranean aquifers have been tapped dry, allowing the earth to cave in.

McKirdy notes that unstable soil could have consequences for the stability and safety of buildings, public works projects and rail systems. Led by researchers in Beijing, the international team of scientists included experts from Spain and Germany. The research was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China. The Los Angeles Times notes here that Mexico City, Jakarta, and Bangkok are among the other cities where soil is collapsing due to low groundwater levels. 


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