Further exploitation of the Yangtze River's upper reaches for hydroelectricity will mean inevitable damage to the waterway's ecosystem, Ma Jianhua, the chief engineer of the Yangtze River Water Resources Commission, warned Thursday.
"Lobbying for more projects is becoming fiercer owing to the increasingly short supply of electricity throughout China," Ma said at a press conference in Beijing. He noted that the Three Gorges Project, the last hydropower station constructed on the middle reaches of the river, has raised new issues that must be faced.
"Pathological changes are occurring along sections of the 6,300-kilometer-long river with conditions getting worse than ever before," said Ma.
Another official with the commission, Weng Lida, pointed out that dams have a significant effect on the river's fish.
He said: "The dam projects influence the reproduction of fish in the Yangtze like the Chinese sturgeon. We must find solutions to these problems."
With the Yangtze River valley covering almost 20 percent of all China's territory, fish are not the only species whose futures are threatened.
To find solutions to these problems, a Yangtze Forum will be held on April 16 in Wuhan, the capital of central China's Hubei Province, to raise public awareness of the need to protect the river, Ma announced.
Jointly sponsored by 26 parties, including the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) and China's water resources, forestry and environmental protection authorities, the forum's focus is on keeping the Yangtze a healthy river while allowing for the needs of the 420 million people who live along its banks.
Today, the amount of sewage being poured into the river is increasing relentlessly, with about 24 billion tons of effluent being pumped into the increasingly dirty waters annually. Lakes and wetlands along the river have receded due to rapid urbanization and the reclamation of marshlands, while schistosomiasis, or snail fever, has reached epidemic proportions in many areas.
(China Daily April 1, 2005)