Soon We Can Just Call It the Styx
Yangtze River so polluted it’s on the verge of death
The Yangtze River is “cancerous” with pollution — mainly industrial waste and agricultural runoff — according to reports in China’s state media. Experts estimate that within five years, up to 70 percent of its water may be unusable, particularly as drinking water for the 186 cities that border the river (including the commercial hub of Shanghai). The Yangtze, China’s longest river and the third-longest in the world, absorbs 40 percent of China’s wastewater, or about 25 billion tons a year; more than 80 percent of the wastewater is untreated. Aquatic life is suffering: in the mid-1980s, the Yangtze supported 126 animal species; in 2002, it was home to 52 species. Last year, Chinese authorities declared the Yellow River, the country’s second-longest, to be too polluted to provide drinking water. Some 300 million Chinese do not have access to safe drinking water. China has initiated river cleanup campaigns, but many are impeded by spotty enforcement.
Get Grist in your inbox