Passengers get on a train in Nanning, Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, on Sept 30, 2019. (Photo: VCG)
China's longest heavy-load railway met strict environment protection requirements during construction, and long-standing ecological supervision will occur, experts said.
Haoji Railway spans 1,814 kilometers, running between Ordos, Inner Mongolia autonomous region and Ji'an, Jiangxi province. The railway, which began operations on Sept 28, crosses 32 environmentally sensitive areas including deserts, grasslands, soil erosion areas, lakes and wetlands.
Each conservation area has a specific protection plan. The total investment in environmental and water protection during railway construction reached 8.02 billion yuan ($1.1 billion).
"We would rather increase the difficulty of the construction than destroy the ecology for a shortcut," said Bai Zhanxiong, head of Haoji Railway's environmental protection project under the China Railway Design Corporation.
"Chinese law has strict requirements on minimizing the environmental impact of projects," Bai said. We submitted the railway's environment assessment report and protection planning to relevant authorities in 2013, and received the approval the following year.
"Every construction team that is part of this railway must follow the plan. We also invited independent monitoring institutes to examine the project's potential impact on vegetation, soil, air, water, noise and light."
About 334 million cubic meters of soil and rock were excavated during construction. About 170 million cubic m of that rock and soil were reused. The rest was disposed of following environmental standards.
"We also used the abandoned soil to make the barren land into farmland, orchards and tobacco bases, which created economic benefits for locals," he said.
To prevent desertification and improve the ecological environment in the northern desert section of the railway, which is over 300 km long, the teams built a green passage within 210 meters perpendicular to the railway on both sides and planted bushes and grasses alternately at intervals of 30 meters.
They also built over 500 culverts for locals and animal activities in the desert, which has about 40 species of animals under state protection.
All loading and unloading of coal must be conducted in closed spaces. During transportation, workers at stations along the line will spray dust suppressant on trains and coal to prevent dust from drifting, Bai said.
As for environmental protection efforts for water and wetland areas, the teams took corresponding measures to deal with drilling slag, mechanical leakage and sludge during construction. The railway's bridge section also has a rainwater collection system, which could help keep polluted water that may result from construction or operations from entering the river or wetlands.
In ecological protection zones, the teams installed sound-insulating barriers and placed shock cushions under the track to reduce noise and vibration. Light and noise were strictly controlled, said Li Yongjin, the railway's chief engineer under the railway design corporation.
The railway crosses the Sanmenxia protection zone in the Yellow River basin, where over thousands of swans migrate from October to April every year. From 2014 to 2019, the local departments monitored the number of migrating swans and found that the number increased every year.
"Our measures must be effective to protect the environment," Li said. "Ecology along the whole railway will be strictly monitored during operations, and other aspects like noise, air and water would be examined."