Tue, Jul 17, 2007 - Page 4 News List

Global warming playing havoc with China's rivers


Less water flows down China's two biggest rivers now than 40 years ago because global warming is drying up the wetlands that feed them, a state news agency reported yesterday, citing Chinese scientists.

Xinhua news agency said scientists of the Chinese Academy of Sciences studied changes at the wetlands of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau in western China -- the source of the Yangtze and Yellow rivers.

Using aerial photos and satellite images, they found the wetlands on the plateau have shrunk more than 10 percent over the past four decades. The wetlands at the origin of the Yangtze have suffered the most, contracting by 29 percent.

"The wetlands play a key role in containing water and adjusting the water volume of the rivers," researcher Wang Xugen was quoted as saying. "The shrinking of the wetland on the plateau is closely connected with global warming."

The drop in water flow comes despite an increase in the amount of rain in the region.

The report did not comment on the impact of the reduced water levels in the rivers.

China -- by some reports the world's leading emitter of carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas that leads to global warming -- has said it is trying to cut its emissions.

Officials say the country's efforts include energy conservation measures, increasing forest coverage and family planning policies that have slowed population growth.

The Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency said in a report last month that China overtook the US in carbon dioxide emissions by about 7.5 percent last year. While China was 2 percent below the US in carbon dioxide emissions in 2005, voracious coal consumption and increased cement production caused the numbers to rise rapidly, the agency said.

Meanwhile, a city in northeastern China has been forced to take emergency measures to deal with an outbreak of blue-green algae in a reservoir that provides water to the city, state media reported yesterday.

Whereas appearances of blue-green algae in other parts of China "were mainly attributed to pollutants from chemical factories," the problems in Changchun were the result of farm fertilizer, Xinhua said.

And in related news, torrential rains in eastern China over the weekend left 30 people dead and nearly 600,000 homeless, state press said yesterday.

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