The Yellow River is China’s second-longest river and the cradle of a 4,000-year-old civilization; now, though, it’s drying up and life along its banks is changing forever. Much of the water in the Yellow River is diverted to arid inner provinces for agricultural purposes, leaving areas downstream without a stream at all. For example, in Shandong, the last province before the river meets the Yellow Sea, the riverbed is sometimes completely dry, and riots have broken out over water shortages. To add insult to injury, even when there is water available it is often so polluted that it is unfit for consumption or irrigation. The government has responded with diversion and dam projects, but critics say that those solutions do not address the fundamental problems: deforestation, overuse of water for agriculture, inefficient factories, erosion, overpopulation, and the lack of water treatment plants (to name a few).

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