Category: Dams and Earthquakes

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.

Trouble on the Yangtze

(December 19, 2012) A central government plan to dramatically increase China’s reliance on non-fossil fuels will derive two-thirds of that target from hydropower – “an increase on par with adding nearly one Three Gorges Dam a year,” reports Jane Qiu for Science magazine. In her article on over-development of the country’s river pulse, the once mighty Yangtze, Qiu looks at the threat China’s damming fever poses to river habitats and species, the calamity potential of dam construction in quake-prone regions and mounting criticism of China’s biased environmental impact assessment process.