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Quake Lakes Spur Rethinking of China?s Dam Building Strategy

Posted June 5, 2008

Topics: Global Business, Politics

By Peter Navarro


One of the tragic ironies of the recent earthquake in China is that it has created numerous new, extremely dangerous dams in a country that already is the most dam populated country on earth. At more than 85,000 dams and counting, Chinese leaders already boast of having the tallest dams, the largest by reservoir capacity, the dam with the highest ship lift, and the most powerful electricity producer. From arch dams, earthen dams, and gravity dams to cascade and concrete-faced rockfill dams, China has it all.

Now, in the wake of the May 12 Sichuan quake, China has more dams than it may be able to handle. The new dams in question are the so-called “quake lakes”—34 at last count, of which 28 threaten to burst (China Daily, June 1). These quake lakes have been created by massive landslides into China’s river system. The landslides are serving as perverse “natural” dams; behind these quake lakes, water is rapidly building up.
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