Tag Archives: Geology

Could the Three Gorges Dam Lead to Earthquakes?

Recently, Zhao Shilong posted a long, thoroughly-researched piece on the potential of the Three Gorges Dam to cause earthquakes. It’s a bit long and technical for me to translate, so here’s a summary. (Do bear in mind that my Chinese is far from perfect and my knowledge of geology is extremely limited, so it’s very possible I’ve misunderstood bits of it.)

Zhao’s concern is that the water level has been raised this year to 175 meters, an increase from last year’s 173 meter level. 175 is about as high as the water can go, and it’s a small increase, but Zhao contends that the pressure caused by the water at a 173 meter depth is responsible for a number of natural gas explosions. These explosions — really they are underground reserves of natural gas being forced out of their previous locations due to the increased pressure from the dammed water — have occurred in a variety of places (Zhao cites Chongqing and Hebei, among others) and are considered by some geologists to be a warning sign for earthquakes.

Zhao himself feels that the question of whether the Three Gorges Dam was a contributing faction in the 5.12 earthquake has “not yet been answered clearly”, and that until that question is answered, the force being exerted on the tectonic plate under Three Gorges — already a fault line and earthquake hotbed — shouldn’t be “rashly increased” via adding another couple meters of water.

Zhao closes with:

Recently, expert scholars holding the same opinion as I are urgently calling this matter to the attention of the relevant national departments as well as the scholars, keep on guard for great danger!

We’ll leave you to assess the validity of his geology — we are in no way qualified to do so — but here are some of the comments about this story left on his blog by netizens:

So it looks like the Three Gorges situation has become very serious. Keep an eye on it, may heaven protect China!

Worth keeping track of and pondering. And I express my respect to the big-brains keeping track of it and pondering it.

They really want to fill it to 175 meters? No way…

Isn’t it true that right now it’s at 172 meters, and nothing has happened yet? There’s an old expression: “groundless fears,” you fear the sky will fall and bury you, but in the end nothing happens!

Objection to the construction of our nation is necessary, we must really treat it seriously!

We also musn’t use psuedoscience to hinder the development of our nation, so that it falls into the pitfalls planned by foreigners.

We should not allow the great unpolluted power of the flowing Yangtze River to be washed away.

Choose the path that pursues profit and avoids harm.

Since the river was dammed, Fengjie has already had three earthquakes.

Fengjie has already had nine earthquakes

[Probably referring to the above commenters] There is definitely a connection!

Large dams lead to earthquakes, in geology circles this is already considered common knowledge. If you don’t want to admit it, fine, then endure it, OK?

Any geology experts out there? What do you think?