China's massive Yangtze River, a freshwater lifeline
for tens of millions of people, is seriously and largely
More than 600 kilometers (370 miles) of the river
are in critical condition and almost 30 percent of its major tributaries are
seriously polluted, a report by the Nanjing Institute of Geography and Limnology under
the Chinese Academy of Sciences said.
The pollution, along with dams and heavy boat traffic, has caused a sharp
decline in aquatic life along the Yangtze.
The report said the annual harvest of aquatic products from the river has
dropped from 427,000 tons in the 1950s to about 100,000 tons in the 1990s.
"The impact of human activities on the Yangtze water
ecology is largely irreversible," Yang Guishan, a researcher at the institute,
The government faces a challenge in much of the country to deal
with worsening pollution caused rapid economic growth and the widespread
flouting of environmental regulations.
The Yangtze accounts for 35 percent of China's total fresh water resources
but it is also responsible for 70 to 75 percent of the country's floods, the
"Flood control remains an arduous task along the Yangtze, given rising
temperatures and frequent occurrences of extreme weather over the last 50
years," Yang said.
He said the Three Gorges Dam, the world's biggest hydropower project, reduced
flood risks in the middle reaches, but the risk of flooding remained high in the
But the report also showed that the huge reservoir created by the Three
Gorges Dam project was seriously polluted by pesticides, fertilizers and sewage
from passenger boats.
The Yangtze is about 6,200 kilometers (3,860 miles) long and runs from the
Tibetan plateau to the sea near Shanghai, passing through some of China's major
cities, such as Chongqing and Nanjing.