China's Dams

The Induced Earthquakes Database

Mining-related activity accounts for the most frequent cause of human induced seismicity, followed by water reservoir impoundment, according to The Induced Earthquakes Database – a comprehensive global review of all human-induced earthquakes.

Human-induced earthquakes are on the rise.

Over the last century, modern industrial activities have been shown to induce earthquakes large enough to produce considerable damage and fatalities. Concern about the increasing scale and harm of these activities prompted Nederlandse Aardolie Maatschappij BV, an oil and gas company based in the Netherlands, to commission researchers to look deeper into this.

The result is The Induced Earthquakes Database – a dynamic catalogue of industrial human activity related to mining, oil and gas and geothermal energy production, development, as well as the filling of water reservoirs behind large dams.

The team behind the database said “the sheer breadth of industrial activity found to be potentially seismogenic came as a surprise to many scientists” and that “as the scale of industry grows, the problem of induced earthquakes is increasing also.” [See: Human-induced earthquakes on the rise]

The Koyna Dam in western India stands as the most dramatic example of Reservoir Triggered Seismicity (RTS). Dam activity at Koyna was blamed for a powerful earthquake in 1967 that destroyed the village of Koynanagar in western India’s Maharashtra state, left 180 people dead, 1,500 injured, thousands homeless and power cut off to Bombay. Koyna generated the largest known induced earthquake of a magnitude of 6.3 (M6.3) on the Richter Scale. [See: ‘Reservoirs, mega structures can induce quakes’]

Other well known examples of dam projects linked to earthquake activity include China’s Zipingpu and Three Gorges.

The Induced Earthquakes Database has found that, to date, at least 170 reservoirs worldwide have reportedly induced earthquake activity.

Researchers say their findings suggest the way to limit the size of potential earthquakes is to limit the size of the projects themselves – smaller mines, water reservoirs and so on. A balance must be struck between the level of acceptable risk and the need for energy and resources, they say.

Read more about the project here: Human-induced earthquakes on the rise.

Related Reading:

Are dams triggering China’s earthquakes?
Could dams be causing China’s earthquakes?
Aftershocks from Sichuan earthquake pose threat of secondary disasters
Sichuan earthquake may be aftershock of 2008 killer quake: Chinese geologist
Deadly earthquake in China may be aftershock of 2008 Wenchuan quake
On alert: RIS risk amid rash of earthquakes in China’s Sichuan-Yunnan region
Press Release: 80,000 deaths from 2008 Chinese earthquake was likely not an act of God, says new study
Mega-dams in China’s earthquake zones could have “disastrous consequences”
Three Gorges Dam failing: Chinese dam increases risk of earthquakes
Hong Kong earthquake an aftershock triggered by Chinese dam 50 years ago


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