Thursday, June 01, 2006

Yangtze river grows 'cancerous' with pollution

BEIJING - China's longest river is "cancerous" with pollution and rapidly dying, threatening drinking water supplies in 186 cities along its banks, state media said.

Chinese environmental experts fear worsening pollution could kill the Yangtze river within five years, Xinhua news agency said, calling for an urgent clean-up.

"Many officials think pollution is nothing," Yuan Aiguo, a professor with the China University of Geosciences, said. "But the pollution is very serious" he added, warning that experts considered it "cancerous".

Industrial waste and sewage, agricultural pollution and shipping discharges were to blame for the river's declining health, experts said.

Yangtze is the third-longest river in the world after the Nile and the Amazon. It runs from remote far west Qinghai and Tibet through 186 cities including Chongqing and Nanjing and reaches the sea at Shanghai.

It absorbs more than 40 per cent of the country's waste water, 80 per cent of it untreated, said Lu Jianjian, from East China Normal University.

"As the river is the only source of drinking water in Shanghai, it has been a great challenge to get clean water," Xinhua quoted him as saying.

China is facing a severe water crisis - 300 million people do not have access to drinkable water - and Beijing has been spending heavily to clean major waterways such as the Yellow, Huaihe and Yangtze rivers.

But those clean-up campaigns have made limited progress because of spotty regional enforcement. Toxic spills are common, the worst recently being in the Songhua river in the northeast which led to the taps of Harbin being turned off for days.

Ironically, the Yangtze is earmarked for China's South-North water diversion scheme, which will pump water to parched areas.

Environmentalists fear that most of the water shipped will not be fit to drink.

THIS IS SOMETHING we need to pay close attention to. Not only is China's population ever expanding, their need for valuable resources is too. This includes water. Much attention is being paid now to oil, and most of the whole Iran controversy is probably to prevent China from getting more oil (the US is very scared of China). But if this trend continues with China's rivers, you better believe that the next major conflict in this world will be over supplies of clean fresh water...

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