Dams and Earthquakes

Citizens’ group expresses concern over building dams in seismically active areas of India

(March 29, 2011) The North East People’s Alliance, a group composed of activists and NGOs in North East India, is calling for a halt to large hydro dams, which they fear will trigger further seismic activity in the area.



For the last few days our thoughts were with Japan as the government and the people are faced with compounding tsunami and a major nuclear disaster after a historic and massive earthquake. The earthquake comes as nature’s rude reminder to all of us in the North East as we sit on the highest earth quake zone 5.

In the past we have raised this issue of safety of dams and have urged governments and dam builders to refrain from building large dams which can bring disasters. India’s North East is seismically one of the six most active regions of the world, the other five being Mexico, Taiwan, California, Japan and Turkey. It is placed in zone 5, the highest zone, of the seismic zonation map of India.

It lies at the junction of Himalayan arc to the north and Burmese arc to the east. The region has experienced 18 large earthquakes during the last hundred years including the great earthquakes of Shillong (1897, M=8.7) and Assam-Tibet border (1950, M=8.7). Besides, several hundred small and micro earthquakes have also been recorded in the region.

The alarming number of large dams being planned in the region, particularly in Arunachal, is a concern. Not only that these dams are going to be built in an highly earthquake prone zone but also that these dams themselves can triggered seismicity which is also referred to as reservoir-induced seismicity due to the impoundment of large reservoirs. The most serious case may be the 7.9-magnitude Sichuan earthquake in May 2008, which killed an estimated 80,000 people and has been linked to the construction of the Zipingpu Dam.

The 8.9 Japan’s earthquake has not left them with any choice, we do still have time to think clear before heading with the mega dam projects that is planned in the region. We call upon the Chief Ministers of North East in particular the CM of Arunachal to immediately halt all dams, including those already under operation, so as to review their safety. We call call upon the CMs for moratorium of all big dams in the region.

If an accident of this magnitude could happen in Japan, it can happen just as easily in North East. All that’s needed is the right chain of fatal circumstances.

This is a warning to all decision makers. All those who do not heed this warning of Japan, must face the wrath of people if wrong decisions are made.


Bamang Tago
Arunachal Citizen’s Rights

Ramananda Wangkheirakpam
Forum for Indigenous Perspectives & Action
North East Peoples Alliance
Jupiter Yambem Center
Paona International Market
Imphal West 795001, Manipur

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