China's Rivers

Posted by headwater on Sat, 01/12/2008 - 00:17

Weixi Village, Nu RiverWeixi Village, Nu RiverChina’s rivers are at a crossroads. They are the lifeblood of the world’s most rapidly growing economy, but their ecological health and their ability to sustain the communities that depend on them has never been more at risk. Five of China’s seven largest rivers are polluted to the point of being unsafe for human contact (China State Environmental Protect Agency, 2002), and in the next ten to fifteen years, some 150 new large dams will be constructed on the country’s last remaining intact river systems (World Commission on Dams, 2001). At the same time, more and more Chinese citizens are strengthening their resolve to protect China’s natural resource heritage, and seeking new ways to enjoy and experience nature first-hand.

Currently, China’s most threatened river heritage is found in Northwest Yunnan Province, an area of rich biological as well as cultural diversity. A tapestry of Himalayan peaks, deep green valleys, and ethnic minority culture, the area was designated in 2003 as the UNESCO “Three Parallel Rivers” World Natural Heritage Site. In addition to being home to 20% of China’s higher plant species, and over 50% of its animal species (IUCN), the “Three Parallel Rivers” region boasts China’s most spectacular river canyons formed by the Nu (Salween) River, Mekong River, and Yangtze River. In this remote corner of Yunnan Province, these three rivers run parallel to each other, coming within 70 kilometers of each other before separating to water the plains of eastern China and Southeast Asia.

Nu River DancersNu River DancersA total of 30 large dams have been proposed on the “Three Parallel Rivers,” threatening to displace tens of thousands of ethnic minority farmers and transform China’s “grand canyons” into still reservoirs. China Rivers Project fosters a vision for China’s rivers in which these three rivers, as well as other outstanding examples of China’s river heritage, can be protected and enjoyed for generations to come. Map of rivers in Greater Tibet (see photos folder)

The following organizations have excellent information on rivers in China: