Home >Brand Stories >Yellow River clean-up brings bright future

Zhang Qinglin, a resident of Ronghe town, Wanrong county, Shanxi province, visits the Fenhe River, a couple of kilometres from his home, every other day.

The 75-year-old enjoys watching the river meander through wetland before it joins the Yellow River, China’s second-longest waterway.

“There was a time when the Fenhe’s water quality had deteriorated. It was like the river you had been living on for generations had got sick. Now, though, the extensive wetland is helping to make the water clean and reduce flooding," he said.

Running through 27 counties and districts in Shanxi, the 716-km-long Fenhe is the Yellow River’s second-largest tributary. The Yellow River flows for 5,464 kilometres through seven provinces and two autonomous regions. The river basin has a drainage area of more than 752,000 square kilometres.

In 2018 residents of the provinces and regions through which the Yellow River flows accounted for 30.3 per cent of China’s population, and their GDP accounted for 26.5 per cent of the national total.

A meeting of the top leadership on Aug 31 stressed that an effort should be made to improve the environment of the Yellow River Basin.

The measures should optimise the allocation of water resources, facilitate high-quality development of the whole basin, improve people’s lives and promote the inheritance of Yellow River culture.

Birds fly over the Yellow River Delta wetland in Dongying, Shandong province.
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Birds fly over the Yellow River Delta wetland in Dongying, Shandong province. (WANG KAI / XINHUA)

“Provinces and regions along the river will take targeted measures according to local circumstances to protect the environment in the Yellow River Basin," said Li Bin, secretary-general of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, the top advisory body.

She made the comments at a symposium on the protection and high-quality development of the river, held in Lanzhou, Gansu province, last month.

For provinces on the river’s upper reaches, including Qinghai and Gansu, the priority must be to protect and restore the ecosystems of lakes, glaciers, wetland and grassland to conserve water for the basin, she said.

People who live along the middle reaches must try to reduce water and soil loss, and control the discharge of pollutants into the river.

Provinces on the lower reaches must emphasise prevention of natural disasters, build sound ecosystems for wetland and rivers, and strengthen control of pollution sources, both industrial and domestic, she said.

Cheng Xiaobo, Gansu’s vice-governor, said that the province, as an important water conservation and supply area for the river, has made progress in restoring the ecosystem, protecting water and soil and controlling pollution.

By the end of 2018, more than 24 per cent of Gannan Tibetan autonomous prefecture in Gansu was covered by forests, and vegetation coverage, a comprehensive index of the flora covering the grassland, had reached 96.8 per cent.

The prefecture supplies 6.95 billion cubic metres of water to the Yellow River every year, accounting for 11.4 per cent of the total runoff — all the water entering the river from sources such as tributaries, rainfall and meltwater.

The provincial development and reform commission said Gansu is implementing second phase projects to consolidate the health of the ecosystem by integrating the management of grassland, forests, wetland, biodiversity and the river basin.

By the end of last year, the province had treated 65,700 square kilometres of land where sand and soil were easily carried away by wind and water, the provincial water resources department said.

Zhang Fei, 38, has spent the past 15 years building and guarding embankments along the Yellow River in Kaifeng, Henan province, where the river is higher than the city’s ground level because its bed has been raised by silt carried by the water. When flooding occurs the city faces the risk of being flooded.

The reservoir at the Xiaolangdi Hydroelectric Power Project, at Luoyang, Henan province, controls the flow of the river, so there have been no floods since it began operations in 1997, Zhang said.

“We are now greening the area along the river to improve the comprehensive ecosystem. Thanks to ecological belts, sandstorms have also been substantially reduced."

The adoption of effective measures with distinctive local features and advantages has seen environmental improvements in many regions along the Yellow River.

In Dongying, Shandong province, where the river flows into Bohai Bay, the tourism sector is generating wealth.

For years, the local government has been reducing the number of pollutants flowing into the delta and conserving water to restore surface runoff — water that cannot be contained in the main body and flows over adjacent land — and supplement groundwater.

Now, the delta wetland is a prime habitat for plants and birds. The number of avian species living on the wetland has risen to 368, while the total bird population has reached 3 million to 4 million, attracting large numbers of tourists.

This supplement, prepared by China Daily, People’s Republic of China, did not involve the news or editorial departments of Hindustan Times.

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