CHANGSHA, The first annual
health report on the Yangtze River indicates that the billions of tons of waste
that continue to be dumped into China's longest waterway are taking a serious
toll its aquatic life.
Industrial sewage from a textile
dyeing factory is drained from a pipe into the Yangtze River in Yichang,
in central China's Hubei province in this March 22, 2007 picture. China's
economy could face problems unless the country shifts to a more
sustainable and environmentally friendly growth pattern, said Ma Kai, head
of the National Development and Reform Commission. Picture taken March 22,
The 2007 annual report on Yangtze River protection and development shows that
more than 600 kilometers of the river are in critical condition. The report says
almost 30 percent of its major tributaries, including the Minjiang, Tuojiang,
Xiangjiang and Huangpu rivers, are seriously polluted.
The report says the river's annual harvest of aquatic products dropped from
427,000 tons in the 1950s to about 100,000 tons in the 1990s.
A separate study by the Yangtze River Water Resources Commission shows cities
along the river discharge at least 14.2 billion tons of polluted water every
year, 42 percent of China's total.
Pollution, damming and too many boats have caused a dramatic decline in
Yangtze aquatic life. While rare species such as the white-flag dolphin are
thought to be on the verge of extinction, even common species such as carp are
gasping for survival, the report said.
"The impact of human activities on the Yangtze water ecology is largely
irreversible," said Yang Guishan, a researcher of the Nanjing Institute of
Geography and Limnology under the Chinese Academy of Sciences and one of the
chief editors of the report. "It's a pressing job to regulate such activities in
all the Yangtze drainage areas and promote harmonious development of man and
The report, complied by Yang's institute, the Yangtze River Water Resources
Commission and the WWF, also warned of the higher flood risks.
The Yangtze accounts for about 35 percent of China's total fresh water
resources but it's also responsible for 70 to 75 percent of the country's
floods, the report said.
"Flood control remains an arduous task along the Yangtze, given the rising
temperature and frequent occurrences of extreme weather over the last 50 years,"
Although the Three Gorges Dam, the world's largest water storage facility,
has reduced flood risks in the middle reaches, the risk of flooding remains high
in the lower reaches, he said.
The report also assessed the Three Gorges Dam project, showing its huge
reservoir is seriously polluted by pesticides, fertilizers and sewage from
China allocated 4 billion yuan (US$513 million) in 2002 to offset
the impact of the dam on the ecology, the local environment and the local
people, said Prof. Weng Lida, former head of the Yangtze River Water Resources
Commission, adding that more cash is coming.
"We have to take into consideration the proper settlement of the people who
have been displaced, environmental protection, heavy silting and the prevention
of geological disasters," said Weng who cautioned that "faster is not always
The water level in the Three Gorges reservoir reached a landmark 156 meters
last October, but some provinces want the level to go higher so more electricity
can be produced, Weng said.
"Higher water levels will worsen pollution and silting. We have to seek more
sustained development," he said.