Dams and Earthquakes

Alert system a priority: experts

Ray Cheung
South China Morning Post
January 4, 2005

Mainland environmentalists have launched a petition urging the government to fast-track the establishment of an earthquake warning system in the southwest.

They said it would help prevent a human disaster such as the Asian tsunami triggered by the recent Indonesian earthquake.

A geological warning network was critical to protect the public amid plans to build a series of massive dams in the region for hydroelectric power projects, they added.

Premier Wen Jiabao had recently ordered the appropriate agencies to establish such a system, environmentalists said.

At a time when China is developing the southwest’s water resources, there must be an adherence to Premier Wen Jiabao’s order in which an earthquake warning network and forecasting system for current and future large-scale water resources protection be established, they said.

The petition has been signed by six environmental groups including Green Earth Volunteers, Friends of Nature and the Global Village of Beijing, and individuals including a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference.

They also called for a stricter assessment of the vulnerability to earthquakes of all proposed dam projects in the region.

The southwest, particularly the Tibet Autonomous Region and Yunnan province, is home to some of the mainland’s largest watersheds, including the Lancang, Nujiang, and Jinsha rivers. To meet the nation’s surging energy demands, the central and local governments have announced plans to build a series of controversial dam projects on the waterways.

Citing the Nujiang as an example, the petitioners said the authorities had only managed to produce a half-page report on the project’s earthquake risks, as part of its environmental impact assessment.

The project’s opponents have warned that the dams will not only destroy the pristine environment, but also be vulnerable to the area’s frequent earthquakes, which could spell disaster.

Mainland environmentalists have launched a petition urging the government to fast-track the establishment of an earthquake warning system in the southwest.

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