Conspiracy Watch: Three Gorges Dam

Did the Three Gorges Dam cause China’s big quake?

Illustration: Peter Hoey

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the conspiracy: The Chinese government insists the 7.9 earthquake that killed more than 69,000 people in Sichuan province in May was a natural disaster. But it’s trying to cover up the real culprit: Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest and most controversial hydroelectric project.

the conspiracy theorists: Probe International, a Canadian watchdog group that’s been against the dam since the 1980s, claims that the $30 billion, decades-long project triggered the temblor. The group says engineers detected more than 800 tremors around the dam’s reservoir in 2006, and wants an investigation into whether the pressure from its rising waters was behind the catastrophe.

meanwhile, back on earth: Plate tectonics causes most earthquakes, but scientists have blamed “reservoir-induced seismicity” for shaking things up around the world. In 1999, researchers at the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska cautioned that the weight of the water held back by the Three Gorges Dam could cause quakes. This June, several Chinese geologists and environmental scientists asked the government to stop approving dams in geologically unstable areas in southwest China. Still, Three Gorges is 400 miles from the epicenter of the May quake, about the same distance as the Hoover Dam from Salt Lake City.

Kookiness Rating: tin foil hattin foil hat (1=maybe they’re on to something, 5=break out the tinfoil hat!)

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is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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