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Posts Tagged ‘Yellow river’

Never Mind the Enviro Impact of China’s Dams

Posted by feww on June 19, 2009

Dams on tributaries of China’s Yellow River could collapse anytime!

At least five newly built dams on branches of the Yellow River in arid Gansu province, northeast China face imminent collapse, just a year or so after they were built, said China Daily.

“Improper construction procedures, disqualified workers, embezzlement of construction funds and mismanagement of local water resource departments are threatening the safety of the dams, according to China Youth Daily.”

“One dike more than 80-m long and 20-m high, built in 2006 in Yuanxian county on the middle and upper reaches of the Yellow River, has developed a breach about 10 meters wide in the middle.According to nearby villagers, at least five newly-built dams are in very fragile condition, the newspaper said.”

The dams, paid for by the central government, are managed by the Ministry of Water Resource, under their “soil and water conservation project of the Yellow River” program.

“With a length of 5,464 km, the Yellow River, dubbed the “mother river” of China, suffers the most serious soil erosion in the world, especially along its middle and upper reaches. The average amount of mud and sand washed into the river every year reaches 1.6 billion tons.” China Daily said.

“Since 2003, China has poured a total of 83 billion yuan ($12 billion) into tackling soil erosion along the river and constructed more than 160,000 dams, according to Xinhua News Agency.

“As flood season approaches in July, August and September, China’s dam safety is coming under heavy pressure and inspections show many of them are not in good condition, Minister of Water Resources Chen Lei said last month.”

The Chilling Statistics:

  • Total number of dams, dikes and reservoirs in China: 91,500 units
  • Units in potential danger: 37,000  (or just over 40 percent of the country’s total)
  • Reinforced:  Under 3,650 dams
  • In need of immediate reinforcement: More than  7,600 Units
  • Chen Lei said that between 1999 and 2008,  some 59 dams were breached in China, 30 as a result of torrential rains and another 29 due to defects arising from poor construction.

Following quotes are from Ecology and Biodiversity, The University of Hong Kong: Conservation & Management of Freshwater Ecosystems ENVM8016 (2008)

  • North-south water transfer from Yangtze to Yellow River (& northern cities); seen as essential for >100 million people depending on the river
  • Yellow River did not reach the sea (no measurable flow) in 22 of the years between 1972 & 1997; duration of annual dryness in lower course was ~8 days in 1970s, 11 days in 1980s & 226 days in 1997
  • 3,382 dams on Yellow River can store >90% of mean annual discharge; since 1997 flow has been optimized (by controlled release) to ensure that some water flows to the sea throughout the year; involves difficult trade-offs due to absolute water scarcity
  • On large scales, dams reduce the downhill transfers of material from land to sea (e.g. amount & quality of water) & trap >30% of global sediment flux (retard SW silica inputs). Other effects could include blockage of uphill transfers of material.
  • Dams (& overfishing) can reduce or prevent upstream breeding migrations of salmon, with significant effects on stream & riparian ecosystems – as seen in NW North America

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Posted in China, Drought in China, Official corruption, poor construction, soil and water conservation | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Surprise! World’s largest rivers drying UP!

Posted by feww on April 22, 2009

Climate change drying up world’s 925 largest ocean-reaching rivers

About 72 percent of the world’s 925 largest ocean-reaching rivers are drying up, most of them because of the climate change, according to a report by National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colorado.


The Horseshoe Bend of the ‘sewage-green’ Colorado River located near the city of Page, Arizona (
dated April 13, 2008). Photo:  Christian Mehlführer, User:Chmehl. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 license.

The largest rivers affected include the Colorado in the United States, the Yellow River in China, the Ganges in India and the Niger in West Africa.

Lower water levels combined with the impact of exponentially growing demands on water for damming, irrigation and other uses could pose a threat to future supplies water and food globally, the researchers said in the American Meteorological Society’s Journal of Climate.

Highlights of the report:

Rivers in some of the world’s most populated regions are losing water, many because of climate change, researchers reported on Tuesday.

  • Some 925 largest ocean-reaching rivers are drying up,mostly because of climate change
  • The largest affected rivers include the Colorado in the southwestern United States, the Yellow River in northern China, the Ganges in India and the Niger in West Africa.
  • “About one-third of the top 200 rivers (including the Congo, Mississippi, Yenisey, Paraná, Ganges, Columbia, Uruguay, and Niger) show statistically significant trends during 1948–2004, with the rivers having downward trends (45) out-numbering those with upward trends (19).”
  • Reduced water levels due to climate change combined with the impact of exponentially growing demands on water for damming, irrigation and other uses could pose a threat to future supplies of water and food globally, the researchers said in the American Meteorological Society’s Journal of Climate.
  • “Reduced runoff is increasing the pressure on freshwater resources in much of the world, especially with more demand for water as population increases … Freshwater being a vital resource, the downward trends are a great concern.” Said the report’s lead author.
  • About one-third of the top 200 rivers  show significant changes during 1948–2004, some 45 rivers showing downward trends, while only 19 show upward trends.
  • Annual freshwater discharge into the world’s oceans decreased during the 1948–2004 research period as follows
  • Pacific Ocean: down by about 6 percent, or 526 km3
  • Indian Ocean: down by about 3 percent, or 140 km3
  • In the case of Arctic Ocean annual discharge (from melting ice) rose about 10 percent, or 460 km3
  • The Columbia River in the northwestern U.S. lost about 14 percent of its streamflow during the 54-year period because of reduced precipitation and higher water demands, while the Mississippi River flow rose by 22 percent because of increased precipitation in the U.S. Midwest.
  • “[T]here is evidence that the rapid warming since the 1970s has caused an earlier onset of spring that induces earlier snowmelt and associated peak streamflow in the western United States and New England and earlier breakup of river-ice in Russian Arctic rivers and many Canadian rivers.”

The following is a free abstract. Full report is sold online at the American Meteorological Society website.

Changes in Continental Freshwater Discharge from 1948–2004

A new data set of historical monthly streamflow at the farthest downstream stations for world’s 925 largest ocean-reaching rivers has been created for community use. Available new gauge records are added to a network of gauges that covers ~80 × 106 km2 or ~80% of global ocean-draining land areas and accounts for about 73% of global total runoff. For most of the large rivers, the record for 1948–2004 is fairly complete. Data gaps in the records are filled through linear regression using streamflow simulated by a land surface model (CLM3) forced with observed precipitation and other atmospheric forcings that is significantly (and often strongly) correlated with the observed streamflow for most rivers. Compared with previous studies, the new data set has improved homogeneity and enables more reliable assessments of decadal and long-term changes in continental freshwater discharge into the oceans. The model-simulated runoff ratio over drainage areas with and without gauge records is used to estimate the contribution from the areas not monitored by the gauges in deriving the total discharge into the global oceans.

Results reveal large variations in yearly streamflow for most of world’s large rivers and for continental discharge, but only about one-third of the top 200 rivers (including the Congo, Mississippi, Yenisey, Paraná, Ganges, Columbia, Uruguay, and Niger) show statistically significant trends during 1948–2004, with the rivers having downward trends (45) out-numbering those with upward trends (19). The interannual variations are correlated with the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events for discharge into the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, and global ocean as a whole. For ocean basins other than the Arctic, and for the global ocean as a whole, the discharge data show small or downward trends, which are statistically significant for the Pacific (−10.1 km3 yr−1) and Indian Ocean (−5.4 km3 yr−1). Precipitation is a major driver for the discharge trends and large interannual to decadal variations. Comparisons with the CLM3 simulation suggest that direct human influence on annual streamflow is likely small compared with climatic forcing during 1948–2004 for most of world’s major rivers. For the Arctic drainage areas, upward trends in streamflow are not accompanied by increasing precipitation, especially over Siberia, based on available data, although recent surface warming and associated downward trends in snow cover and soil-ice content over the northern high-latitudes contribute to increased runoff in these regions. Our results are qualitatively consistent with climate model projections, but contradict an earlier report of increasing continental runoff during the recent decades based on limited records. ( Copyrighted material.)

Posted in Climate Change, Continental Freshwater Discharge, Ganges river, niger river, precipitation | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

China’s Coastal Waters Are Terminally Polluted

Posted by feww on June 9, 2008

China would be lucky to find a single healthy fish swimming in its coastal waters by 2011.

A Shrinking World Series

China’s wetlands, coral reefs and mangroves are rapidly disappearing: expert

According to a Chinese specialist, Luan Weixin, a professor at the Economics and Management College at Dalian Maritime University:

  • About 50 percent of inland coastal wetlands in china have disapperaed because of excessive reclamation.
  • Some 80 percent of coral reefs and mangrove forests had been destroyed over the past 50 years.
  • Worst affected areas include estuaries of the Yangtze, Yellow and Zhujiang rivers, and water bodies near East Liaoning, Bohai and Hangzhou bays.
  • A total of 145,000 square kilometers of shallow waters along China’s coast are substandard.
  • Some 29,000 square kilometers of seawater is heavily contaminated by chemicals including fertilizers, which contain nitrogen and phosphate.


A child clears water from his boat in the algae-filled Chaohu Lake in Hefei, in east China’s Anhui province October 14, 2007. Blue-green algae has caused water pollution in Chaohu Lake, China’s fifth largest fresh water lake, where the rare whitebait production is on the decline, Xinhua News Agency reported. REUTERS/Jianan Yu (CHINA). Image may be subject to copyright. See FEWW Fair Use Notice!

“Over the past 20 years or so, China’s marine economy has been developing at a staggeringly rapid pace and marine resources are being widely tapped. As a result, the condition of China’s inshore environment is deteriorating and the ocean ecology has been seriously damaged,” he said. (Source)


A man carrying lotus roots walk through an algae-filled pond in Yingtan, east China’s Jiangxi province, October 12, 2007. China’s pollution woes will form the smoggy backdrop to a key Communist Party gathering in October as leaders, who long treated nature as a foe to conquer, now fear that dirty air and water threaten stability and growth. REUTERS/Stringer (CHINA) CHINA OUT. Image may be subject to copyright. See FEWW Fair Use Notice!

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