Research paper topics: The China landslide and natural disasters

A landslide toppled 33 buildings in the city of Shenzhen, China, just before noon on Sunday, December 20, 2015. Landslides are a deadly natural disaster, and while it’s possible to predict them using modern technology, in practice, the damage is almost impossible to fully avoid.

Rescuers search for survivors of the China landslide. (Credit: Color China Photo/AP)

Rescuers search for survivors of the China landslide. (Credit: Color China Photo/AP)

If you are looking for research paper topics for your environmental studies or disaster management courses, consider looking at the China landslide, comparing the deadliest landslides, or looking into the technologies that might be used to predict them.

Shenzhen, China

Shenzhen is one of China’s most prosperous cities, according to Chun Han Wong of the Wall Street Journal. As he explained in the December 20, 2015, article “China Landslide Buries Buildings,” the city abuts Hong Kong and is relatively new–most of its development has happened in the last 35 years. The December 20 landslide buried buildings in an industrial park, and by late Sunday evening, 59 people were missing. Only 14 had been rescued.

Though no official cause of the landslide has been announced, locals stated that an artificial hill, where excavation and building sites have been illegally dumping soil for the last two years, created the landslide when it collapsed. Because of the rapid growth in China, the government has been criticized for its lax attitude toward enforcing safety regulations. The Shenzhen disaster covered 20,000 square meters in mud and sent residents of the Guangming New District, where nearly a million people live, fleeing. An August explosion of a chemical storage depot, located too close to nearby apartments, killed over 170 people. A building collapse in Henan in October killed 17 workers. Good research paper topics about the landslide and other disasters in China could involve looking at China’s safety regulations to see which ones are being enforced–and which are being ignored.

Landslide prediction

There was no major rain behind the Shenzhen incident, but most landslides are linked to heavy rains. In a November 12, 2010, article for the Manila Bulletin, “Landslides, Floods Can Be Predicted–Experts,” a contributor reported that members of the academe at Mountain Province State Polytechnic College (MPSPC) in the Philippines had developed a way to predict the most likely locations and times for landslides. Through “the use of non-recordable standard rain gauges, government can predict the areas where floods and landslides are most likely to occur,” the contributor explained. The experts had already used the technique to successfully predict two landslides. MPSPC’s budget was small and their equipment was basic, and they achieved successful predictions–which, they believed, meant governments in threatened areas could do a lot to predict and prevent damage from landslides.

Other more advanced technologies for landslide prediction include software that can model the movement of water through soil, and thus determine whether housing on a particular slope of land is at risk. But some scientists have pointed out how flawed landslide prediction is, and government involvement in keeping people safe from identified hazardous areas might mean forcing people to relocate–only to have no landslide occur for many years.

For your term paper, consider looking at the types of technology available to predict landslides, or write about the consequences of the government wrongly predicting the area of a future landslide.

Deadliest landslides

You can also write about the deadliest landslides in history:

  • A 1985 volcanic mudslide in Armero, Colombia, killed 23,000 and wiped out the entire town.
  • A rock avalanche landslide in Yungay, Peru, in 1970, buried the town and killed 22,000.
  • A 1941 landslide in Huaraz, Peru, killed between 4,000 and 6,000 people.

Find out more about environmental and earth sciences, along with natural disasters such as earthquakes and flooding, at Questia.

Do you live in an area prone to landslides? Tell us in the comments.

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