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.