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Lake Shewa in northeastern Badakhshan, Afghanistan, was dammed sometime in antiquity when a large rock avalanche (sturzstrom) from the fault-shattered and strongly weathered Archean gneisses of the Zirnokh peaks to the north moved into the Arakht River valley. This rock avalanche dammed up the river and its tributaries to a dam thickness of c. 400 m, producing a 12-km-long lake that is as much as 270 m deep, leaving c. 80 m of freeboard to the top of the dam. At least four separate instances of slope failure have been mapped at the site of the landslide dam, as well as a rock glacier, using remotely sensed data, historical maps, and Google Earth™. Spring seepage through the dam face has caused several recent subsidiary debris slides, which if continued at a large enough scale for long enough, or with additional seismicity from the active strike-slip faults that cross beneath the landslide dam, could threaten its integrity. Otherwise the clean water that emerges from the dam face could be the source of an unvarying mini-hydroelectric power source, in addition to the agricultural irrigation that it provides at the present time.
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Keywords: breakout flood; hazard potential; landslide-dammed lake; rock avalanche; spring seepage; sturzstrom

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Geography and Geology, University of Nebraska at Omaha, Omaha, USA 2: Department of Geography, Kansas State University, Manhattan, USA

Publication date: 2010-12-01

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