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Yellow River Basin Suffers Serious Erosion

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In one of the worst examples of erosion in the world, 62 percent of the Yellow River basin area has been affected by water and soil erosion, a recently released report by the Yellow River Conservancy Commission has found.

The report, released on Dec 30, is part of a national campaign to raise public concern about environmental protection along the river and to provide guidelines for policymakers.

The report includes basic information about water and soil erosion along the river, measures taken to protect the environment and future goals. Similar reports will be released regularly.

The report said the area of the river basin affected by water and soil erosion covers 465,000 square kilometers.

Although careful management prevents 350 to 450 million tons of mud and sand flowing into the river every year, reducing the area suffering from erosion by nearly 226,000 sq km, the need for better environmental protection in the Yellow River basin is still urgent.

The report said nearly 90 percent of areas in the country that are suffering from severe water and soil erosion are in the Yellow River basin, making it one of the most-eroded areas in the world.

It also said more than 20 percent of the sand and mud flowing into the river every year comes mainly from the midstream of the river, which should be the focus of attention in future management.

Most of the sand and mud in the river is found in the midstream, an area of 18,800 sq km. Although this area represents only 2.5 percent of the total river basin it delivers 20 percent of the mud and sand to the river every year, the report said.

The management of the river's midstream is the key to protecting the river, the report said.

Water and soil erosion have been major problems for China for decades.

According to research by the Asian Development Bank, the economic losses caused by water and soil erosion are equal to about 3.5 percent of the country's annual GDP, Sun Honglie, academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, told Xinhua News Agency in October 2010.

From 1950 to 1999, more than 9 billion tons of mud and sand flowed into the lower reaches of the Yellow River, raising the riverbank by 2 to 4 meters, Sun said.

The latest statistics from the commission showed that during the period of the 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-2010), more than 2 billion tons of mud and sand had been prevented from flowing into the river, helping to improve conditions for plant and human life in the area.

(China Daily January 5, 2011)

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