The World's Top Ten Rivers, Including the Yangtze, Are Headed Towards the "Crisis Point"

Zhou Tong

PureInsight | April 15, 2007

[] According to
the BBC's report right before March 22nd, which has been designated as
World Water Day, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has reported that the
world's top ten rivers are at risk today. The factors that harm the
rivers' ecosystems are different for each river. The WWF evaluated the
effects on the rivers due to dams, over-extraction, climate change,
pollution, shipping, and other things. The report concluded that the
river "crisis" is as severe as the changing climate.

These ten rivers are: he Salween - Nu, the Danube, the La Plata, the
Rio Grande - Rio Bravo, the Ganges, the Indus, the Nile - Lake
Victoria, the Murray - Darling, the Mekong - Lancang, and the Yangtze

The pollution in the Yangtze River is getting severe. In September of
2006, China's official water conservancy pointed out in a report that
the pollution in the Yangtze River is threatening the drinking water
source for the residents of 500 cities along the river. According to
the report, the pollution of the Yangtze River has three main factors.
The first is the discharge of industrial and domestic waste; the second
is the agricultural runoff; and the third is discharges from shipping.
The amount of total waste that goes into the Yangtze River greatly
exceeds the waste that goes into the Yellow River and the Huai River
combined. However, because the Yangtze River is big and still has some
self-purification power, the severity of the pollution has been hidden
to a degree.

At the same time, although the governments of the provinces and cities
along the river do worry about polluting the river, which will cause
serious disaster to the ecosystem, in order to keep the growth rate of
the GDP, each province and city is still desparately making new
construction plans. This includes the cities in the upper, middle and
lower reaches of the Yangtze River. Notably, the projects that have to
do with high-pollution, high water extraction, and heavy shipment, are
built right along the riverside.

According to the experts in this field, the total wastewater that goes
into the Yangtze River is more than 25 billion tons per year. This is
more than a quarter of the total amount of waste in all of China. Out
of these 25 billion tons, over 80% of the wastewater has not been
treated and purified effectively and is discharged into the Yangtze
River directly. Currently, 60% of the water in the Yangtze River is
polluted in varying degrees.

The pollution in China has already gone to an extremely serious
situation. Beijing is one of the most polluted cities in the world.
Because the city is surrounded by mountains, it is more difficult for
the polluted air above the city to disperse. Adding in the fact that
Beijing currently has three million automobiles in the city, the
problem of air pollution is getting more and more severe.

Among the more than twenty thousand lakes in China, 75% are polluted by
algae and more lakes are disappearing every year. The main reasons for
the disappearance of the lakes include over-extraction of water,
general pollution and pollution due to animal breeding. These factors
all damage the ecosystem of the lakes and wetlands. Currently 70% of
the rivers and lakes and 90% of the underground water in China is

According to the criteria for judging seawater quality, over half of
the seawater near the shores of China does not make standard. A quarter
is rated moderately or severely polluted; 81.4% of the waste-discharge
outlets exceed the discharge limit; and even some extremely poisonous
chemicals have been discovered. One of the four seas in China, the
Bohai Sea, is close to becoming a "dead" sea. Currently, only some
simple organisms, such as jellyfish and shrimp, are still living in the
Bohai Sea. Fish can no longer survive.

"The world is facing a massive freshwater crisis, which has the
potential to be every bit as devastating as climate change," said Dr
David Tickner, head of the freshwater programme at WWF-UK.

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