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Zipingpu Dam May Have Triggered the Sichuan Quake 193

bfwebster writes "An article in the Telegraph (UK) raises an interesting question: was the massive (7.9) Sichuan earthquake that wracked China last year and left millions homeless caused by ground stresses following the completion of the Zipingpu dam? As the article notes, 'The 511-ft-high Zipingpu dam holds 315 million tonnes of water and lies just 550 yards from the fault line, and three miles from the epicenter, of the Sichuan earthquake. Now scientists in China and the United States believe the weight of water, and the effect of it penetrating into the rock, could have affected the pressure on the fault line underneath, possibly unleashing a chain of ruptures that led to the quake.'" The Sichuan region is earthquake-prone, but has not seen anything as large as the 7.9-magnitude quake for perhaps millions of years. The Chinese government denies any connection between the dam and the earthquake and seems to be actively obstructing the access of scientists who want to investigate. The article concludes, "There is a history of earthquakes triggered by dams, including several caused by the construction of the Hoover Dam in the US, but none of such a magnitude."

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