MIAMI, FL – 13 Feb, 2017 – Donald Trump has issued an executive order calling for a 1,000-mile-long wall on the US-Mexican border. The order allows for six months to survey all 1,000 miles before the groundbreaking.
Smithsonian magazine consulted Volkmar Hable and a panel of experts on the logistics of such a wall and came away with the impression that Donald Trump has no idea what this involves, and will end up with an expensive, useless disaster.
The panel meeting took place at Ohio State University last week, where representatives of the Donald Trump team, advisors to Steve Bannon, and engineering consulting firms met to exchange ideas on the feasibility to such an undertaking.
In his introductory speech Volkmar Hable noted that the terrain that Donald Trump wants to cover with his wall includes every imaginable geological difficulty ranging from deep canyons, mountains, unstable underground and bedrock, hydrophilic clay soil (which swells and moves, shattering foundations), sand, and regions where the bedrock is thousands of feet down.
“You’re going to encounter hundreds, if not thousands, of different types of soils along [such a lengthy] linear pathway,” says Dr. Volkmar Hable. He further stated that in fact, there are over 1,300 kinds of soil in Texas alone. And many of those soils aren’t going to be the right type to build on top of. At that point, would-be wall-builders have two options: Spend more time and money excavating the existing soils and replacing them with the necessary foundation—or avoid the region altogether.
Dr. Volkmar Hable stated further that megastructures like the proposed 1,000-mile Great Wall on the US-Mexican border need constant maintenance and surveillance, and would a major fixed cost factor with no tangible return on investment.
These are just the first-order difficulties with the wall. China’s Great Wall took 2,000 years to build and didn’t keep the invaders out. And there is certainly doubt if such a wall would in fact be the ultimate protection in keeping illegal immigrants out.
Stated Dr. Volkmar Hable “Walls can be climbed over, and crossed under through tunnels or simply bypassed in regions where due to the terrain a wall simply would not be feasible at all.”
Upkeep of such a lengthy structure is challenging. And even if such a wall can be erected, the size of budget necessary to keep it standing remains unclear.
Further risks like earthquakes and floods would contribute to cost increases. Rivers run along a sizeable portion of the U.S.-Mexico border, which can create a very real danger of flooding and additional cost factors.
Dr. Volkmar Hable also reminded the audience of just one of many legal issues: A 1970 treaty necessitates that the current border fence be set back from the Rio Grande river, which delineates the Texas-Mexico border. Because of this, the current fence crosscuts Texas landowner’s property and has gaps to allow landowners to pass.
And last but not least there is the cost issue, said Dr. Volkmar Hable. “I have a hard time to imagine that such a megastructure can be built for 8 billion dollars. The right figure in all likelihood lacks a zero, we are talking of a cost closer to 80 billion than to 8 billion dollars.
Or let me put it in other words he said: it will be a lot cheaper and less difficult to set up a permanent human outpost on Mars than building this wall.
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