The fountainhead area of the two longest rivers of China, the Yangtze and the Yellow, in west China's Qinghai Province, is suffering from a severe ecological crisis with decreasing glaciers, lakes and wetlands, according to sources with the local government.
Regarded as the mother rivers of the Chinese, both the Yangtze River and the Yellow River rise in the plateau in the south of Qinghai Province with an average altitude of over 4,000 meters.
The region, once densely distributed with rivers, lakes, marshes, snowy mountains and glaciers, has been one of the largest ecological conditioners in the earth, playing an important role in conserving water resources, lessening pollution and maintaining the diversities of creatures.
But researchers believed that the environment in the fountainhead areas of the two great rivers has kept deteriorating in recent decades, due to global warming, population explosion and unlimited use of grassland resources.
As a result, a great number of glaciers thaw, lakes dry and wetlands decrease, all of which severely threaten the local ecological balance, said sources with the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
According to data provided by the forestry and livestock farming departments in Qinghai Province, from 1970 to 1990, the Gangjiaquba Glacier in the fountainhead area of the Yangtze River has receded at least 500 meters, an average of 25 meters per year.
In the meantime, the Chibuzhang Lake, once one of the largest lakes in the source of the Yangtze River with an area of 600 square kilometers, now has shrunk to four little chain lakes.
The Madoi County of the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Golog, the first county the mainstream of the Yellow River flows through, which once boasted 4,077 lakes, has seen over half of its lakes disappear in the past 20 years.
With the decrease of wetlands resources in the fountain area, the distribution of special high and cold-dwelling species has kept reducing year by year. Some have reached the brink of extinction.
To protect the rare wetland resources, the Qinghai provincial government has started a project in 2003 to build and to preserve nature reserves in the fountainhead areas of Yangtze, Yellow and Lancang rivers.
(Xinhua News Agency January 7, 2004)