Category: Dams and Landslides

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.

Are dams triggering China’s earthquakes?

(April 29, 2013) Understanding the forces behind China’s magnitude-7 earthquake in Sichuan Province more than a week ago should sound warning bells. Patricia Adams digs deep into the country’s recent rash of earthquakes in southwestern China and finds the region’s seismic risk is increasingly man-made.

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.

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.

Residents struggle in China’s “model community” as millions set to be resettled

(January 22, 2013) China’s largest-ever forced relocation effort, in the northwestern gateway province of Shaanxi, is set to transform the lives of more than 2.8 million people over a period of 10 years. The massive migration, even by China’s standards, is currently underway in part to make way for another of the country’s vast infrastructure projects, the enormous south-north water transfer scheme; in part due to environmental degradation – geological instability caused by deforestation, and in part as a result of socioeconomic inevitability – a formidable long-range political objective to urbanize impoverished, rural populations. Drawing on his conversations with migrants, writer Andrew Stokols in this update for, observes the human cost of China’s quest for modernity which has left many migrants struggling to meet new expenses and feeling stung by a loss of independence, purpose and stability.

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.

Mega-dams in China’s earthquake zones could have “disastrous consequences”

(October 31, 2012) “Earthquake Hazards and Large Dams in Western China,” the Probe International report authored by geologist John Jackson, has set China’s academic and industry circles astir. As the debate over Jackson’s findings heats up, the respected Caixin Media magazine, New Century Weekly, looks at both sides of the debate and the specific issues Jackson’s explosive report has raised.

Seismic signs

(September 5, 2012) Probe International has been at the forefront of research on the connection between seismic activity and large-dam construction, focusing on examples in China such as the Zipingpu Dam, which is thought to have triggered the deadly 2008 Sichuan earthquake. Now, a new article by U.S.-based quake warning advocate, David Nabhan, calls for a rethink of seismic forecasting in North America that draws on connections so often overlooked: specifically, the trigger effect of dams, and the impact of lunar and solar gravitational tides on earthquake activity.

Too many masters

(August 20, 2012) A severe test of the Three Gorges dam’s capacity to withstand a major flood peak in July initially showed the mighty dam ready and able. However, downstream areas found themselves at higher risk when floodwaters were released by the dam. Meanwhile, upstream areas are impacted when the dam holds floodwaters back. This article looks at the many pressures, and potential disasters, weighing on the ability of China’s biggest dam to fulfill its design mandate and asks: is July’s flood peak—the biggest test of the dam so far in its nine-year history—just the start?

China’s new mega-dam is a mega-problem

(July 12, 2012) Almost 20 years in the making, China’s Three Gorges mega-dam was declared complete on July 4 when the last of its 32 generators went online, 10 years after the first turbine went into operation. There is no end in sight, however, for costs associated with the vast and controversial project, which remains closer to disaster than triumph.