Xiluodu Dam and giant landslide, Yunnan and Sichuan, China

The second biggest dam after the Three Gorges project is likely to have contributed to reservoir-induced earthquake and massive deadly landslide.


“The China Three Gorges Corporation has developed important technologies including precise blasting, digital cooling and grouting, intelligent vibrating and temperature control, which ensured no temperature cracking during the 6.8 million cubic meters dam concrete pouring.” “The innovative ideas and technologies of the Xiluodu Project have given the project a leading position in the world in intelligent construction of mass concrete structures, which has successfully solved the dam crack problem, a world class difficult issue,” said Professor Luis Berga, Honorary President of International Committee on Large Dams [4].

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Basic Data
NameXiluodu Dam and giant landslide, Yunnan and Sichuan, China
ProvinceYunnan and Sichuan
SiteXiluodu in Yongshan County (Yunnan) and Leibo County (Sichuan) and other counties
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Water Management
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Dams and water distribution conflicts
Specific CommoditiesLand
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThe height of the Xiluodu reaches 285 metres, with a crest elevation of 600 metres, its reservoir capacity is 12.67 billion cubic metres and its total installed capacity is 13,860 MW. the reservoir is 200 km long and average width of 700 m. Total cost approached 10 billion USD.

The Xiluodu dam is a double-curvature arch, concrete dam with a height of 278m and width of 700m. The reservoir has a total storage capacity of 16.5 billion cubic yards, of which six billion cubic yards are for flood control. The flloded land is 41843 mu, equivalent to about 3000 ha.

The Xiluodu River flow through the dam is controlled using five massive control gates, including a 1,600t gate, which is the world's heaviest control gate, and four other gates weighing 1,200t each. The fixed hoist headstock gears operate the gates that block the water.

The Xiluodu-Zhejiang HVDC transmission project transfers the electricity generated at Xiluodu to Jinhua, Zhejiang. The transmission line stretches up to 1,680km and has a transmission capacity of 8GW. The transmission project was worth $3.9bn.

The Xiluodu-Guangdong HVDC project is a double 500-kV bipole system with a transmission capacity of 6,400MW. The power is transferred from Zhaotong station in Xiluodu to Conghua station in Guangdong via 1,286km-long transmission line.

Impoundment of the Xiluodu Dam began on May 4, 2013, when, beginning at 440 metres above sea level, it was filled to a height of 540 metres. The first phase of impoundment lasted only 51 days but the increase in water level reached 100 metres, far higher than that of the Three Gorges reservoir which only increased 65 metres in its first phase of impoundment, while the Xiangjiaba Dam reservoir (on the upper Yangtze) increased 76 metres. Due to rapid filling of the Xiluodu reservoir, shipping traffic below the dam in the Luzhou section of the Yangtze was severely affected. Run-off from upstream was only 35-56% of the average for the same period in 2012; the water level of the Erlangtan in downstream Luzhou City declined to 0.18 metres from 1.4 metres during the period of reservoir filling.
Level of Investment (in USD)10,000,000,000 [2]
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population180,000 directly displaced people
Start Date07/2013
Company Names or State Enterprises China Yangtze Power from China
Voith Hydro Holding GmbH & Co. KG from Germany
Siemens from Germany
C-EPRI Electric Power Engineering from China
Alstom from France
China International Water & Electric Corporation (CWE) from China
China Three Gorges Corporation (CTG ) from China
International and Financial InstitutionsChina Development Bank (CDB) from China
Asian Development Bank (ADB)
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersInternational Rivers

Green Earth Voluteers (lv jia yuan), http://eng.greensos.cn/aboutus.aspx

Green River (lv se jiang he)
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)LOW (some local organising)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
International ejos
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of MobilizationMedia based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Desertification/Drought, Floods (river, coastal, mudflow), Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
Health ImpactsVisible: Malnutrition, Deaths
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Specific impacts on women, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseComplaints because of risks of earthquakes
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.Acconding to Fan Xiao, "This landslide reminds us, once again, that when impounding and operating large reservoirs in a geologically disaster-prone region like western China, full consideration should not only be given to the interests and needs of hydroelectric power production, but also to the environmental impact and the effect on geological hazards. In the first phase of reservoir impoundment, especially, it’s imperative to allow for a sufficient observation and grace period, and to be really careful in regards to the timing and rate of filling, and the dropping of water levels. During reservoir operation, the timing, volume and rate of filling and lowering of water levels should also fully consider the environmental impacts on downstream areas. And, generally, the monitoring and management of reservoir induced seismicity and other geological disasters must be strengthened.". Fan Xiao is the Chief Engineer of the Regional Geology Investigation Team of the Sichuan Geology and Mineral Bureau
Sources and Materials

Yueping, Y., Bolin, H., Shichang, W., & Jinhe, L. (2015). Potential for a Ganhaizi landslide-generated surge in Xiluodu Reservoir, Jinsha River, China. Environmental Earth Sciences, 73(7), 3187-3196.
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Good article in Nature (vol 513, issue 7517) quoting various sources. " Chinese data hint at trigger for fatal quake. Seismic activity started to rise just as two giant reservoirs on upper Yangtze were being filled with water". Jane Qiu

10 September 2014
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[1] Probe International - Giant landslide likely caused by Xiluodu Dam impoundment

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[3] International Rivers - Xiluodu and Xiangjiaba Dam the Lower Jinsha River
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[5] The Third Pole.net - Yunnan earthquake linked to dam-building, says Chinese geologist
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Wikipedia - Xiluodu Dam
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[4] Nepal Energy Forum - On the World’s Top Level of Dam Intelligent Construction
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[6] The New York Times, Chinese Dam Projects Criticized for Their Human Costs

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[2] Hydroworld - 13.86-GW Xiluodu hydroelectric project prepares for El Niño effect

XILUODU, Yunnan, China

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Power-Technology - Xiluodu Hydroelectric Power Plant, China
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Xiluodu Dam, Jinsha River, China (tecnical description of the dam)
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Media Links

China Dilogue. Yunnan earthquake linked to dam-building, says Chinese geologist. Liu Qin 20.08.2014. 中文版本 The earthquake that devastated Yunnan province on August 3 is linked to world’s largest and most intensive dam-building scheme on the Jinsha River, says geologist Yang Yong.
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Other Documents

Nature, 513 (7517)
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Xiluodu dam
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Other CommentsTwo other sources:


Meta Information
ContributorDaniela Del Bene, ICTA - UAB
Last update17/07/2017