Around 30 % of China’s Ming-era Great Wall has disappeared over time as adverse natural conditions and reckless human activities — including stealing the bricks to build houses — erode the UNESCO World Heritage site, state media reported.
The Great Wall is not a single unbroken structure but stretches for thousands of kilometres in sections, from Shanhaiguan on the east coast to Jiayuguan in the windswept sands on the edge of the Gobi desert.
In places it is so dilapidated that estimates of its total length vary from 9,000 to 21,000 kilometres, depending on whether missing sections are included. Despite its length, it is not, as is sometimes claimed, visible from space.
Construction first began in the third century BC, but nearly 6,300 kilometres were built in the Ming Dynasty of 1368-1644, including the much-visited sectors north of the capital Beijing.
Of that, 1,962 kilometres has melted away over the centuries, the Beijing Times reported. Some of the construction weathered away, while plants growing in the walls have accelerated the decay, said the report on Sunday, citing a survey last year by the Great Wall of China Society.
“Even though some of the walls are built of bricks and stones, they cannot withstand the perennial exposure to wind and rain,” Dong Yaohui, vice president of the society, said.
“Many towers are becoming increasingly shaky and may collapse in a single rain storm in summer.”
Poor villagers in Lulong county in the northern province of Hebei used to knock thick grey bricks from a section of wall in their village to build homes, and slabs engraved with Chinese characters were sold for 30 yuan ($4.80) each by local residents, the paper said.