China's Environment Is Deteriorating
China's Environment Is Deteriorating

CHINA—The source China's Yangtze River is depleted to a pitiful degree. The glacial snow line is retreating. The desertification is serious, and the ecological system is fragile.

Under such circumstances, the Chinese government again started the West Line Construction of the South-to-North Water Transfer Project, which is adding a greater burden on already deteriorating Yangtze water resources.

According to Singapore's Lianhe Zaobao report, the South-to-North Water Transfer Project is to transfer water from the headwaters of the Yangtze River to the Yellow River by building dams and reservoirs at the upstream branches of the Yangtze River, including the Tongtian River, tributary Yalong River and upstream of the Dadu River.

The dam's site elevation is from 2,900 meters to 4,000 meters. A water tunnel will be built to divert the water to the Yellow River through Bayan Mountain—the water-shed between the Yangtze River and the Yellow River.

Two trucks dump earth on the construction of the Caojie hydropower station on Jialing River, a tributary of the Yangtze river, where water levels remain near historic lows, in Chongqing, China. (Liu Jin/AFP/Getty Images)
Two trucks dump earth on the construction of the Caojie hydropower station on Jialing River, a tributary of the Yangtze river, where water levels remain near historic lows, in Chongqing, China. (Liu Jin/AFP/Getty Images)

20,000 Kilometer Trip

Renowned Chinese environmental activist Yang Yong made a half year trip to inspect the Yangtze River tributaries and its basins from last summer to this spring. The total distance traveled was 20,000 kilometers.

Twenty years ago, Yang Yong was the key player on the Yangtze River Rafting Expedition Team. He said that compared to what he saw of the Yangtze River's glacial source twenty years ago, today the deterioration of Yangtze River's source is shocking.

Yang Yong delivered the latest reports of this Yangtze River source expedition to the Central government.

Yang Yong indicated that, at present an independent public figure as himself does not have a good channel to communicate with the government. And his concerns are often neglected, because it affects many special interest groups and current government policies.

As Yang described it, “The source of Yangtze River has receded to a pitiful degree. During the summer, the riverbed contains only a shallow stream. Large tracts of desert surround the river. In many places the water flow is blocked permanently without an outlet, thus forming some squalid lakes. These dead lakes become salt water lakes. Slowly, the entire area dies around them.”

Abandoned Cities and Powerplants

According to Yang, many cities and towns close to the Yangtze River's source have been relocated to other places because of the lack of water. There are many abandoned cities along the river. The new cities are facing the same water deficiency. Even in such a situation, seven hydroelectric power plants have been planned on the source of the depleted Yangtze River.

In fact, because of the water shortage, many power plants have already been shut down since their completion. Under this situation the Yangtze River's glacial depletion and the desert's expansion with the South-to-North Water Transfer West Line project will bring catastrophic disasters to the already fragile Yangtze River source's ecological system. It will further threaten the safety of the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River.

Glacier Retreats 300 Meters

Twenty years ago, Yang Yong and his Yangtze Rafting Expedition team set up a monument at the source of the Yangtze River. Last year, when he visited the same place, he found that the monument is 300 meters away from the original glacier's melt line. In the upper reaches of the Yangtze River on the Tongtian River tributary, Yang has not seen any water for two days.

Yang Yong said, “It's so hard to imagine that the source of all rivers—the Yangtze River has deteriorated to this degree today.”

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