Three Gorges Probe

Three Gorges chief rejects scientific link between Sichuan quake and Zipingpu reservoir

(March 6, 2009) According to reports from the South China Morning Post, the Chinese government official in charge of the Three Gorges Dam has dismissed the theory linking the Zipingpu dam reservoir with the M7.9 earthquake that killed an estimated 88,000 people last May and left millions more homeless; referring to published geological analyses as “personal opinions at most.”

Wang Ziaofeng, director of the State Council’s Three Gorges Project Construction Committee’s executive office, was specifically referring to an academic paper published in the December 2008 issue of the Chinese journal Geology and Seismology, which concluded that the 320 million tonnes of water in the Zipingpu reservoir had “clearly affected local seismicity.”

The paper, authored by five scientists from the government’s China Earthquake Administration and its Sichuan provincial bureau, made use of seismic data gathered from when the reservoir began to fill in 2004 to the date of last year’s deadly quake. It determined that the reservoir, just 5.5km from the quake’s epicenter, had caused major seismic changes in the geologically unstable region prior to the May 12 event.

The theory was first suggested in the weeks immediately following the deadly Sichuan event by the Chinese geological engineer Fan Xiao in an interview with China’s Green Earth Volunteers and translated by Three Gorges Probe, and has since received widespread international support from such geological hazards experts as Christian Klose of Columbia University in New York.

Wang claimed the findings of the paper could not represent official views of the China Earthquake Administration, arguing that the theory linking earthquakes to large nearby dams, known in the scientific community as reservoir-induced-seismicity, had not been scientifically proven worldwide.

What he failed to mention, however, is that the Chinese government continues to withhold key reservoir level data and seismic information on Zipingpu that scientists worldwide require in order to fully investigate the quake-dam link.

The ‘not yet proven’ stance can’t possibly hold up forever, and the world is anxiously awaiting an answer.

Jameson Berkow, Probe International Editorial, March 6, 2009
Read the full story at the South China Morning Post [subscription required]

Read more from Probe International on the Zipingpu story

Learn more about the theory of reservoir-induced seismicity

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Categories: Three Gorges Probe

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