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Wounds inflicted on Qinghai reserve must be healed soon to save 3 rivers

(China Daily) Updated: 2017-09-01 08:42

THE SANJIANGYUAN NATURAL RESERVE in Northwest China's Qinghai province is the source of the Yangtze River, Yellow River and the Lancang River, making it one of the most important sources of freshwater in the world. But illegal coal and iron ore mining in recent years has seriously damaged the environment and ecology of the reserve and its surrounding areas on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. Beijing News comments:

Sanjiangyuan contributes 25 percent of the water in the Yangtze River, 49 percent in the Yellow river, and 15 percent in the Lancang River (upper half of the Mekong River).

The mining industry, however, has almost destroyed the vegetation in the reserve, laid the massif bare, and the deserted mines, including open-cast mines, have become sources of pollution, expediting the melting of glaciers and disappearance of lakes. As a result, the region has become one of the worst cases of environmental disaster.

Halting all mining activities is the first step toward cleansing the environment - not the ecology per se - as it will take decades, if not centuries, to just stabilize it.

In 2014, Duozhi county of Qinghai sought a special fund of 38 million yuan ($5.76 million) from the higher authorities to initiate the ecological restoration process, but its application is yet to be approved.

If the government continues to ignore the serious wounds inflicted on the fragile environment and ecology of the area, the pollutants from the deserted mines will soon compromise the health of the entire region, not only contaminating the water in the three rivers but also reducing its volume. In other words, the longer the ecological restoration project is delayed, the more difficult it will be to breathe life back into the area.

The owners of the illegal mines that operated in the natural reserve for years, along with the industrial and environmental supervisors and the administrative officials who allowed them to operate must all be held accountable.

And the central government should consider allocating a special fund to help Qinghai start the ecological restoration project as soon as possible.

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