The Shenzhen government has warned it will blacklist companies that use untreated sea sand in construction projects after a national television exposé triggered widespread concern about building safety.
The Shenzhen Housing and Construction Bureau released nine measures yesterday to tighten control on construction material and property development. It will start a system to track and test materials used by developers. Companies producing and using substandard material will be blacklisted and barred from doing business in Shenzhen.
These are the toughest measures adopted by a mainland city to tackle this problem. It follows a China Central Television news programme last Thursday that reported on the rampant use of untreated sea sand by Shenzhen developers.
The report said sea sand is widely used in Shenzhen because it is cheaper than river sand. But it contains high levels of salt and chloride that could corrode steel reinforcements, weakening buildings and even causing them to collapse.
The report caused widespread concerns. Shenzhen ordered a citywide inspection last week and revoked the licence of one major building material producer and suspended a dozen more. It also put on hold the construction of at least three major projects - including the 660-metre-high Ping An Financial Centre, slated to be the highest building in the mainland.
The bureau has collected samples from the construction site of the Ping An building and will announce the results soon. Ping An Group - one of the largest insurers in China - issued a statement yesterday saying it asked the contractor to confirm the source of the sand. It is also conducting its own tests.
"All of the seven samples [we have tested] show that the volume of chlorine ions contained in the sand meets the national standards," it said.
Ping An also said it was working with the Shenzhen government on the official probe.
Shenzhen authorities said they would randomly test at least once a week the levels of salt and chloride in building material used by local developers.
The drastic measures, however, did little to dispel safety concerns among property owners and investors.
A group of 300 buyers of a property project in the Longgang district of the city, which was named by the CCTV programme, has staged three protests since Friday, demanding total refunds.
"We won't believe [the Shenzhen authorities'] investigation result. The longer they keep silent, the more suspicion will spread," said Steve Wang, one of the property owners.
"We strongly require the government and the developer to send the samples to a third-party lab in Hong Kong or overseas. If not, we will continue our protests," he said.