Sunday, November 30, 2008

China's Sorrow and Pride

China is big and so are some of its problems such as the Yellow River pollution.

The Yellow River is the 2nd longest river in China, after the Yangtze River. It is fondly known as the 'cradle of Chinese Civilization' as it is believed that the Chinese civilization originated in the Yellow River basin.

The river is so named because of the muddy water caused by yellow sediments suspended in the water. It carries as much as 1.4 billion tons of silt to the sea annually and some of the sedimentation slowly forms natural dams and causing the river to change course several times since ancient China.

The Chinese holds a strong love-hate relationship with the Yellow River which explains why it is nicknamed both 'China's Pride' as well as ' China's Sorrow'. The river represents the lifeline for 155 millions people and 15% of Chinese farmland along its 5,400 km course. But the temperamental river is extremely prone to flooding. It brought much miseries when it flooded more than 1,500 times in the last three to four thousand years.

Today, the majestic Yellow River is in a very sorry state. Heavy industries have dumped so much waste into the river and over a third of its length is so polluted that the water cannot be used for drinking, fishing and farming.

In recent years, the river has suffered from heavy pollution and there have been many incidents of serious water contamination. Two years ago, the pollution problem in China gained national attention when a section of the Yellow River literally turned red, twice within a month, due to spillage of red dye.

It was as if the Yellow River was weeping and hemorrhaging from its wounded guts. Take the sign!

China has been enjoying double-digit growth in recent years. People are starting to question whether the ill effects from industrialization are beginning to negate the real economic progress. Some even wonder whether industrialization is strengthening China or threatening its future.

The Chinese government is gradually moving towards the emphasis of 'harmony'. Instead of the previous 'just develop and manage consequences later' approach, it now has the 'develop and manage it at the same time' advice in its propaganda.

A big problem requires a big effort to solve. It will take awhile before the new 'harmonious' approach brings any visible results.

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