Dams and Earthquakes

Chinese state media blames the gods for deadly landslide: Chinese geologist says dam construction was the likely trigger

(June 20, 2010) Fan Xiao, Chief engineer of the Regional Geology Investigation Team of the Sichuan Geology and Mineral Bureau, says dams were the real trigger of a massive landslide in Kangding County in China’s southwestern Sichuan province.

Reports in China’s state-run media are blaming heavy rains for the massive landslide this week that swept 23 dam construction workers to their death and blocked a river in China’s south west region.

But Fan Xiao, Chief engineer of the Regional Geology Investigation Team of the Sichuan Geology and Mineral Bureau, says the likely trigger was dam construction along a tributary of the Dadu River, itself a tributary of the Yangtze in China’s Sichuan province.

“It’s mainly because of large scale work in recent years to construct the hydroelectric plants,” says Fan Xiao. “Along the Dadu River there are over 20 hydropower stations which are all undergoing large-scale work … this has damaged the stability of the mountainsides, leading to mudslides when it rains. And digging also damages the stability of the mountain body, so eventually this creates a large scale mountain collapse.

The landslide, some 1.5 million cubic feet of earth, occurred last Tuesday at around 1:30 in the morning when part of a mountain collapsed in Kangding County in China’s southwestern Sichuan province.

The landslide crushed a shed where construction workers slept and temporarily blocked the water flow.

Fan Xiao also argues that the Zipingpu dam on Sichuan province’s Min River likely triggered China’s devastating 2008 earthquake. He is joined by a growing chorus of experts who agree that the dam’s reservoir likely shifted the land mass and lubricated nearby fault lines to trigger the earthquake that killed close to 90,000 people. The geological phenomena is known as reservoir-induced-seismicity.

Fan Xiao says that hydropower construction along the Dadu River poses the same risks.

“Many hydropower plants along the Dadu River are very large in scale. They have very tall dams that store a large amount of water. Coincidentally, the river is along an earthquake belt, and chances of these dams triggering an earthquake are very high too.”

In recent years, the Chinese regime has undertaken numerous hydropower projects to supply growing demands for electricity.

After the 2008 Sichuan earthquake Fan Xiao, and other experts, including a burgeoning environmental movement in China, called for a suspension of new hydropower plants and a reassessment of geological risks posed by large-scale dams in the area.

Patricia Adams, Probe International, June 20, 2010

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