News FocusWENCHUAN EARTHQUAKE

Some Unwelcome Questions About Big Dams

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Science  08 May 2009:
Vol. 324, Issue 5928, pp. 714
DOI: 10.1126/science.324_714

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Summary

Soon after the magnitude-7.9 Wenchuan earthquake struck last May, geologist Fan Xiao asked: Could a large dam near the fault have triggered the devastating quake? Fan asserts that Zipingpu, just 5.5 kilometers from the quake's epicenter, may have caused the Longmenshan fault to fail decades or even centuries earlier than it might have without added stress. Fan's outspokenness has provoked the wrath of hydropower proponents and scientists who rule out a Zipingpu-Wenchuan link. Science spoke with Fan about his views.