did china’s dams trigger the sichuan earthquake?

A collapsed building in Dujiangyan, close to the epicentre of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.

China’s massive system of hydroelectric dams and water distribution has come under fire once again. Right after the devastating Sichuan earthquake of May 12, 2008, in which over 70,000 people lost their lives, officials rushed to deny that the massive Three Gorges Dam complex hundreds of kilometres downstream could have played any role in triggering the natural disaster.

Now officials are working hard to  play down a call by Fan Xiao, Chief Engineer of the Regional Geology Investigation Team of the Sichuan Geology and Mineral Bureau, for scientists to investigate whether the Zipingpu dam project, located upstream of the quake area, may have triggered the earthquake.

Fan’s call comes in the wake of a paper by Christian Klose at Columbia University which theorized how abnormal surface stresses caused by the Zipingpu dam system may have triggered the massive earthquake. Klose’s hypothesis also matches work conducted by Lei Xinglin a geologist with the China Earthquake Administration in Beijing.


religious traditions and the future of east asia

Here’s three reasons why China’s traditional religions and cultures will play an increasingly important role in the East Asian political scene. 

  1. In mainland China, more people than ever are turning to religion. An interview with Arrianna Liu, who works in a Beijing-based NGO, reported that it’s not just the government’s attitudes that have changed. Ordinary people are now more curious about religion, and more tolerant of it, especially foreign religions such as Christianity.
  2. Confucianism is increasingly being recognized as part of the social fabric that holds East Asian society together. Chinese scholars such as Kang Xiaoguang at Renmin University in Beijing, which has traditionally trained the cadre ranks of the Communist Party, openly advocate a more direct reliance on Confucian values for future policy directions. Moreover, Confucianism is also key to understanding East Asian society from Korea to Vietnam. And it is also a source of controversy for diaspora Chinese living in Indonesia. 
  3. Buddhism is playing an important bridging role in relations between mainland China and Taiwan. China’s second World Buddhist Forum is being held in the spring this year and is being held jointly between the mainland and Taiwan. Academics and Buddhist teachers will be holding the first part of the conference on the mainland, and then flying by charter air to Taiwan for the closing half. 

what has become of china’s eco-cities?

An artist's rendering of the Dongtan eco-city

There has been much news lately that the project to design a massive eco-city on Chongming Island near Shanghai may finally have fizzled out. The project, designed by the British engineering firm Arup, would have created a low carbon-footprint city called Dongtan, just a thirty-minute boat ride from Shanghai. In its first phase, to have been completed in time for the 2010 Shanghai Expo, it would have created housing for 50,000 people. At three quarters of the size of Manhattan Island, the project could eventually have housed half a million people, connected to the mainland via a network of bridges and tunnels.

What went wrong? And, as Andrew Revkin asks in his New York Times blog, is growth still trumping green?