Pipeline Explosion Turns Focus to China’s Urbanization Problems

Published on Author ottman

AI-CF058_CPIPEL_G_20131125133534A recent pipeline explosion in Qingdao left over 50 dead, with 136 injured and nine people still missing.  Regulators and the pipeline’s operator have been passing the blame back and forth since the accident.  Authorities have reported that the explosion was caused by severe human error and a dereliction of duty.

Yang Dongliang, director of State Administration of Work Safety, cited “negligence of duty of pipeline supervision and unprofessional handling of oil leakage before the blasts” as the main problem.  However, the company Sinopec Group defended its conduct, stating authorities in another city with oversight over the pipeline never signed off on an overhaul.  For this reason, the investigation is still not complete.

Qingdao’s rapid urbanization illustrates the challenges that Chinese govnerment face in planning for economic growth.  The population of Qingdao alone jumped nearly 2.2 million in 24 years.  The safety of this influx in population is at question, however.

“I wonder why so many factories and companies have been built in the area, and why people are being directly exposed to pollution and explosions,” said a Huangdao resident calling herself Xiao Rou on her microblog. “Why doesn’t the government take measures?…I hope the government can give us a safe home.”

Sinopec Group and other companies have faced protests to build or expand their industrial facilities in highly populated areas in the past.  Just in this past year, residents of the small city of Ningbo forced officials to suspend their $9 billion expansion of a petrochemical facility.

The explosion just last week occurred while workers were trying to clear a spill from an oil leak that began in the early hours of the day.  Apparently, Sinopec tried to submit plans to overhaul aging parts of the pipeline, but their efforts were rejected.  “If there were any incidents, we wouldn’t be able to repair our pipelines conveniently and immediately,” the Sinopec representative said. However, “the [Weifang] government didn’t agree with our plans to repair the aging pipeline, so we couldn’t do it.”

This event marked the deadliest pipeline blast in recent memory.  As China continues to push towards urbanization and industrialization, ethics will come more and more into play with the planning of these types of pipelines near densely populated areas, and Chinese governments will face difficult decisions on whether or not to proceed with some of their industrial facility expansions.

Source: http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304281004579219562654328796

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4 Responses to Pipeline Explosion Turns Focus to China’s Urbanization Problems

  1. It has really become a repetitive issue for the Chinese. I commend their urbanization efforts but maybe it is too much in some places.

  2. In Qingdao, the urban sprawl problem mentioned in the Miller book is a very real. While the downtown Qingdao is very densely populated with about three and a half million living in the urban area, the land area of “Qingdao” is over four thousand square miles. Think about Jacksonville, FL (the largest city by land area in the US) with a total size of less than nine hundred square miles. Most of the population of Qingdao live outside of the urban area in a poorly organized very spread out industrial area, which a trip to the airport will show you.

  3. Rapid urbanization means new roads, new buildings… etc. These project earn the local governments money by selling to developers. Unfortunately, many repair and modernization projects fall to the wayside because they are not revenue generating. The health and safety of citizens is not always the forefront of officials minds as this case shows.

  4. Thanks for your post.More important, oil experts say, burrowing through China’s regulatory layers is no small feat. In the United States, independent oil companies bought mineral rights owned by private individuals, then pushed ahead with drilling and production. In China, lumbering state companies dominate the landscape, and mineral rights are owned by the state — although which state bureaucracy is in charge of regulation has been a matter of dispute.