Yangtze is Almost Irreversibly Polluted

According to state-run media reports, China’s Yangtze River is so polluted that the damage may be irreversible.

China’s massive Yangtze river, a lifeline for tens of millions of people, is seriously polluted and the damage is almost irreversible, a state-run newspaper said Monday.

More than 370 miles of the river are in critical condition and almost 30 percent of its major tributaries are seriously polluted, the China Daily said, citing a report by the Nanjing Institute of Geography and Limnology, part of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

The pollution, along with damming and heavy use of boats, has caused a sharp decline in aquatic life along the Yangtze.

The report said the annual harvest of aquatic products from the river has dropped from 427,000 tons in the 1950s to about 100,000 tons in the 1990s.

“The impact of human activities on the Yangtze water ecology is largely irreversible,” Yang Guishan, a researcher at the institute, was quoted as saying.

You have to wonder that if this is the extent of the damage that the Party-controlled media is willing to report, how bad must the damage really be?

At any rate, this report, along with many similar reports, just goes to show how wretched the pollution situation in China really is. Additionally, if you couple these reports about pollution with my colleague Dr. Joyner’s earlier post regarding how the economic situation in China may be overstated, and add to the mix growth in gender population disparity, growth in Muslim terrorism, and growth in the availability of information about the west, and you have to wonder–just how stable is China’s current government, anyway? Most of China’s major problems, simply taken singularly, would be enough to take down a lot of governments.

FILED UNDER: Asia, Environment, Health, Terrorism, World Politics, , ,
Alex Knapp
About Alex Knapp
Alex Knapp is Associate Editor at Forbes for science and games. He was a longtime blogger elsewhere before joining the OTB team in June 2005 and contributed some 700 posts through January 2013. Follow him on Twitter @TheAlexKnapp.


  1. Tano says:

    There is always a large proportion of people who put economic growth ahead of just about any enviornmental concern, even in highly developed countries. I doubt that this specific issue is a danger to the regime, but perhaps the accumulation of issues that you mention might be.

  2. Bithead says:

    What you describe here, isn’t all that unlike what we saw in the Soviet Union. Gee, one might call this a trend…

  3. Mark says:

    Are we sure human factors are the cause? Maybe this is just a natural cycle? And anyway, new technologies will save us.

  4. Dave Schuler says:

    China’s crises aren’t going to weaken the hold of the regime. They have a rather different understanding of their relation to the people than Westerners tend to.

    An additional problem for China is the interaction between demographics and the lack of a sound banking system or equities market. In not too many years the oldsters will be far more numerous than the young and there will have been no better way for them to save than tucking their money into their mattresses.

  5. Alan Kellogg says:

    Socialism has damn all to do with it, the problem has more to do with the lack of accountability. When leaders don’t have to respond in any meaningful way to their followers’ concern, then you get the outrages we’re seeing here.

    So based on what we’re seeing here, I have this prediction to make: The Peoples Republic of China will not reach the Moon, much less establish a permanent base on the Moon. Instead, the situation in China will deteriorate to the point that peasant revolts spread out of control, and southern China will raise the banner of revolution and seek the violent overthrough of the current government.