January 16, 2002
Beijing – A Chinese government agency issued a remarkably bleak assessment of pollution on the Yangtze River on Tuesday, raising new concerns about the cleanliness of the reservoir that will soon collect behind the massive Three Gorges Dam.
About 23.4 billion tons of sewage and industrial waste were dumped into China’s largest river and its branches in 2000, 11 percent more than the year before, according to a report by the Yangtze River Water Resources Committee.
Lengths of the 6,275-kilometer (3,900-mile) Yangtze are now too filthy for any human use, said the report, carried by the official Xinhua News Agency. The report concluded that water quality in the Yangtze River basin – home to hundreds of millions of people and also rare species like the Yangtze River dolphin – will only continue to deteriorate, Xinhua said.
It’s rare for the government to release such a frank look at problems that could affect the politically sensitive Three Gorges Dam, scheduled to start holding back water next year.
Critics have long said the US$24 billion dam could end up creating the world’s largest cesspool as its 660-kilometer (400-mile) reservoir traps pollutants dumped by cities upstream.