Category: Dams and Earthquakes

The landslide story

(May 22, 2013) Chinese experts in landslide and geohazard protection fear debris flows, triggered by an epic 2008 earthquake in Sichuan Province, may pose a threat to the region for two decades. A tremendous amount of loose material from the landslides is suspended on hillslopes, ready to be washed away by rain. The potential for ongoing landslides and secondary hazards, such as flooding and blocked rivers, they argue, warrants further investigation.


China earthquake points to future risk sites

(April 30, 2013) Nature magazine reports that, while scientists agree that China’s deadly tremor at Ya’an (Lushan county) may hint at where future quakes will strike, they disagree on which seismic fault the next rupture is likely to occur.

Could dams be causing China’s earthquakes?

(April 24, 2013) Another article exploring the brewing debate over the cause or causes of the April 20 Lushan earthquake reports that the quake may have been an aftershock of Sichuan’s 2008 earthquake disaster, which some experts believe was triggered by the Zipingpu Dam reservoir. This issue of “reservoir-induced seismicity” is fast gaining attention as China, the most dammed nation in the world, is particularly at risk to the phenomenon. A 2011 Chinese study, for example, found China’s massive Three Gorges Dam had triggered around 3,000 earthquakes and numerous landslides in the reservoir region, representing a 30-fold increase in seismic activity in the area.

Shifting tectonic plates, aftershock, dam-related, or all three?

(April 22, 2013) Experts are debating whether the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that struck Sichuan province over the weekend was an aftershock of the region’s deadly 2008 Wenchuan earthquake – both quakes occurred along the same fault line. Some attribute Saturday’s event to natural movement in the earth’s crust but according to Fan Xiao, chief engineer at the Sichuan Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources, the Wenchuan quake is also linked to the nearby Zipingpu Dam reservoir. Speaking to the Global Times, Mr. Fan said large reservoirs built on fault lines can induce earthquakes caused by the pressure of massive water volume on a fracture. “A reservoir with a capacity of over 1 billion cubic meters and a dam more than 100 meters tall would have a 30 percent to 40 percent chance of inducing an earthquake,” he said.

Aftershocks from Sichuan earthquake pose threat of secondary disasters

(April 22, 2013) Shockwaves from Saturday’s magnitude-7 earthquake in Sichuan have placed the region on high alert for secondary disasters from landslides and the potential collapse of 54 earthquake-damaged dams, reports South China Morning Post. The coming rains will promote mudslides and threaten the structural integrity of these dams, geologists warn. Already, a state-of-emergency has been declared for five dams and downstream populations have been evacuated. More than 3,000 hydropower engineers and military personnel are now examining every dam in the region but many areas are still inaccessible. Nine nuclear facilities in Sichuan felt shockwaves too, but have not reported any leaking pipes or ruined buildings. As of Sunday night, the region had experienced 1,642 aftershocks.

On alert: RIS risk amid rash of earthquakes in China’s Sichuan-Yunnan region

(March 22, 2013) A new report, exclusive to Probe International, calls for urgent monitoring of China’s large dams in areas prone to seismic hazard. These areas may be at increased risk from dam reservoir-induced seismicity (RIS). Scientists have observed that reservoir impoundment may not only increase the risk of strong earthquakes, particularly in areas already vulnerable to high-intensity seismic activity, but may represent a more pronounced risk in the first few years after a dam is filled.

Cyberwar and secrecy threaten China’s dams

(March 12, 2013) China may be the world’s biggest cyberspace aggressor, but security specialists say China’s computer-controlled infrastructure is more vulnerable to cyber-attacks and to malfunctioning domestic software than are Western systems. Read Patricia Adams’ piece in the Huffington Post on why China’s dams are vulnerable to both.

Member of the National Committee of CPPCC urges hydro development on the Nu River

(March 4, 2013) In a throwback to Maoist propaganda, a member of China’s National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference has promised that building a rash of dams on China’s Nu River will cure all ills, and bring harmonious development, and leap-forward development to boot. In reality, scientists worry that the dams will trigger earthquakes and landslides and be unable to operate at full capacity for lack of water. Downstream countries are also worried about the loss of natural river flow on which their economies depend.