20 years ago there were an estimated 50,000 rivers running through China – but a recent survey has found that over 27,000 of the waterways have disappeared. An extensive three-year waterway census throughout the country found that China’s rivers only number 22,909 – remarkably less than previously thought. But despite the dicey recent history surrounding China’s rivers, environmental issues aren’t entirely to blame – old-fashioned human error may have thrown the estimated numbers severely off.
27,091 rivers did not simply disappear from the Chinese countryside. Incorrect estimates dating back to the 1950s account for a portion of the grossly over estimated number of rivers, but environmental factors are a major cause. The deputy director of China’s river census group, Huang He, calls out climate change, deforestation and wasteful agricultural irrigation as contributors to the disappearance. Ma Jun, the director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, also told The Verge that many of the rivers in the north are drying up into seasonal rivers with fingers pointing to pollution and overpopulation. Another factor is out-dated water management systems from the days of Mao, created in reaction to flooding in the 1960s, which have since caused water imbalances.
With few regulations preventing chemical, commercial, industrial and even animal carcass dumping into China’s waterways, many rivers are either drying up or becoming so contaminated that they are toxic or unusable. With a rising population and growing water demand, the Chinese government has a hefty problem on their hands that includes both severe pollution and long-term water shortage.
Via The Verge
Images ©Wikimedia Commons and ©Lars Plougmann