China’s Great Wall is disintegrating

China’s Great Wall is disintegrating

Mining has caused parts of China’s national symbol to collapse
The Great Wall of China
If you haven’t climbed the Great Wall of China, do it now, or maybe never.

The stability of the Great Wall, China's world-renowned fortification, is being threatened by illegal mining for copper and iron, as miners tunnel within 100 meters of the iconic structure, according to various media.

People just think of the famous sections and assume that the rest of the wall is in the same condition.

-- Dong Waohui, vice-chairman of the Great Wall Association

Villagers and local officials from Laiyuan county (涞源县) in Hebei Province told Xinhua News Agency that “about 700 meters of the wall, which was built during the reign of Emperor Wanli during the Ming Dynasty (1573-1620), had already collapsed, and more walls and even towers are likely to collapse if the mining continues unchecked.” 

And according to The Telegraph, mining has damaged as much as 80 percent of the wall in some areas. 

Click to see photos of the collapsing Great Wall

"There was a regulation to protect the wall in 2006, but the wall is so long it is hard to enforce,” Dong Waohui, vice-chairman of the Great Wall Association, told The Telegraph.

“The central government asked local governments to include maintenance in their budgets, but that has not been done. And the general awareness of the wall's problems is low."

More on CNNGo: One night inside the Great Wall of China

This is not the first time mining has harmed the Great Wall. Similar cases have occurred in Inner Mongolia, China's main coal reserve region, and experts told Xinhua that the Hebei case suggests damages might be common across all regions.

"We don't know how much of the underground area near the walls has become hollow,” said Guo Jianyong, senior engineer of Ancient Architecture Studies Institute in Hebei Province. “The impact to the walls is unpredictable."

The Great Wall at Ba Da Ling (八达岭长城), a tourist spot 60 kilometers northwest of downtown Beijing, is by far the most-visited and best-preserved part of the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site.

"The best protected areas are the ones which are popular with tourists, like Ba Da Ling, outside Beijing. But those areas only make up just over 48 kilometers of the wall's length," commented Dong Waohui.

“People just think of the famous sections and assume that the rest of the wall is in the same condition."

More on CNNGo: 15 places to see in China that aren't the Great Wall

The Great Wall of China was first built around 2,000 years ago by Qin Shi Huang to resist the invasion of Huns from the north, but most of the remains visible today were built in Ming Dynasty.

According to a state-initiated survey in 2009, the Great Wall spans more than 8,850 kilometers in total, running through 156 counties in 10 provinces in northern China.