Yangtze River is Now a Yellow River

It is a sunny Saturday in Shanghai, and I guess it is so for the Yangtze delta. Wendy and I wanted to bring Yifan to a new city. After the US trip (1600+ miles in 7 days), we reset our definition of living area. 500 km is the new boundary of what we define as “far”.

After checking out cities as far as Rizhao 日照, which may cost 6 hours, we finally decided to go to Nantong 南通. It is at the north side of the Yangtze River, opposite of Suzhou.

The Yangtze River under Sutong Bridge

Sutong Bridge is the new bridge built on Yangtze river. The north side is Nantong, and the south side is Suzhou. The bridge itself, along with the highway running through it is called G15, a 3400 km expressway connecting Shenyang in very north part of China to Haikou, in the south in Hainan. We passed Sutong Bridge today.

The Yangtze River I saw today is very very different from all the photos I saw, and more different than the river in my impression. It is completely dark yellow. Look at this photo:

Photo by Jian Shuo Wang. Yangtze River under Sutong Bridge

Yangtze River is a Yellow River

I remember a comic about the subject. On one end of a phone line, Yellow River is calling: “Yangtze River, Yangtze River, this is Yellow River speaking…”. On the other side, Yangtze River replied: “Yellow River, Yellow River, this is also Yellow River!”.

Few decades ago, the lose of forest at the upstream of the Yellow River caused the river to contain huge amount of soil so it is completely yellow. At that time, Yangtze River is still relatively clean. The Yangtze Crocodile (Alligator sinensis), a rarely seen crocodile from millions of years ago are still living in the water of the Yangtze River in this area.

Today, look at the Yangtze River – the pollution has already made it a more yellow river than the Yellow River. I was shocked by the scene of wide yellowness before me. There are many ships floating in the disgusting surface of the river. I believe it is very hard for fish to survive (even there are fishes, I doubt they can see anything with their eyes under the water). I don’t think anyone can still swim in the river.

Whose River it is?

If it is a river in my own garden, I will spend money and effort to make it right. If it is a river of a neighborhood, we will gather and make something happen. Now, the longest river in China is highly polluted, but there is no political system to support the course to purify it, and protect it. Media is not free to report, or discuss who are the people cutting trees or pour polluted water into it; the government is not held responsible to sue the factories before court (well, court and government are the same organization with the same supervisor); NGO are under legal challenges. What can we do to protect the mother river of China?

I was shocked, completely shocked to see another yellow river in China.

One thought on “Yangtze River is Now a Yellow River

  1. zzz

    I traveled to LuShan when I was a kid in summer of 1984. We took a boat trip from Shanghai to JiuJiang in JiangXi province. If I can find the pics from that trip, I will share with you. The water was muddy just like you saw today. I still remember there were beggars on the boat telling stories entire villages were washed away

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