by Lisa Peryman

Once again: Sichuan quake highlights dam risk

The 7.0-magnitude earthquake in southwest China’s Sichuan province earlier this month, and a devastating 2008 quake in the same province, are likely linked to the region’s dam-building program, says expert.

A magnitude-7 earthquake in the mountainous tourist area of Jiuzhaigou County on August 8 and a horrific magnitude-8 quake in 2008 that struck Wenchuan County, both located in the southwestern province of Sichuan, are likely linked to an ambitious dam-building program in an area of high seismicity, says Wang Weiluo, a renowned hydrologist now living in Germany and the author of “Thirty-six Strategies of the Three Gorges Project”.

In an interview with Radio Free Asia (RFA) earlier this month, he said:

“There have in fact been a number of earthquakes linked to hydropower projects in China’s southwest. A lot of scholars in China don’t agree with this view. But the 2008 earthquake was clearly and directly linked to the Zipingpu reservoir.”

Large dam reservoirs are known to trigger earthquakes in a phenomenon called “Reservoir-induced Seismicity (RIS).” Interest in RIS has grown since geoscientists began suggesting that the Zipingpu dam in Sichuan province may have triggered the deadly 2008 earthquake that killed close to 90,000 people.

A rash of earthquakes have struck quake-prone southwestern China in more recent times.

Fan Xiao, a high-profile Chinese geologist and environmentalist quoted by the RFA report, said the link between earthquakes and hydroelectric dams can’t be ignored.

“Overdevelopment exacerbates local geological disasters,” he said. “They have now built so many dams in that area that they can’t find room to build any more.”

After a 6.6-magnitude earthquake in China’s Yunnan province in 2014 left one person dead, and at least 324 injured, experts called for further research into reservoir-triggered quakes. The epicenter of the 2014 quake was close to a number of hydropower dams.

Harsh K. Gupta, a top international expert on the subject, told Radio Free Asia more than 90 earthquakes are known to have been triggered by the filling of water reservoirs, including the 1967 Koyna earthquake in India, which measured 6.3 on the Richter scale.

Read more at the publisher’s website here

Further reading

Are dams triggering China’s earthquakes?
More quakes linked to mega-dams
Sichuan quake highlights dam risk
Aftershocks from Sichuan earthquake pose threat of secondary disasters
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
Feverish Chinese dam building could trigger tsunami
A new threat to safety along the Yangtze River
Fan Xiao: Did the Zipingpu Dam trigger China’s 2008 earthquake? — the scientific case

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