Yellow River is known as ‘Mother River of China’. Go ahead and find out more amazing and interesting facts about this river.

Facts About Yellow River

Rightly called the ‘cradle of Chinese civilization’, Yellow River’s basin is the place of birth of the northern Chinese civilization. This river is the second largest in China, after Yangtze, and has its origin in Tibet. Yellow River (known as ‘Huang’ in China) had its name derived from the yellow silt that it carries from the Shaanxi Loess Plateau. The river appears as braided streams with small network of channels going in and out. The startling, shimmering beauty which falls on the horizon, the vast green expanse, acres of brightly smiling yellow sunflowers – all these marvels surrounding the river are now deteriorating at a fast pace. Expansion of buildings, factories, construction of dams and almost everything that leads to China’s economic boom is involved in making Yellow River dry. Yellow River is a vital element that makes China habitable with its supply of water that survives 155 million people. Alas, the overwhelming flood caused due to the elevated river beds has earned this river the title ‘China’s Sorrow’ now.
Amazing And Interesting Facts About Yellow River
  • Yellow River is also otherwise known as ‘River of Sorrow’ as it is considered as one of the most destructive and dangerous rivers of the world. Dating back to 602 B.C, the river has led to 1,500 floods, killed millions of people and changed its course about 26 times. All these disasters point towards the large quantity of silt which is produced as a result of soil erosion.
  • Often, the banks of Yellow River overflow and fill the surrounding huge plains with water. Also, the blockage of ice leads to floods that end up in a disaster once in a century. Usually, when an embankment of the Yellow River is broken, the entire countryside gets shattered.
  • In 132 B.C, when some channels of the river were broken, floods devastated 16 districts and the country itself was badly affected. Following this disaster, a new channel was opened in the middle of the plain, but this made the life of about 10 million peasants miserable. This break was left untouched for almost 23 years after which Emperor Wu-ti visited the site and administered its repair.
  • Later, the river opened its channels in the same place in 11 AD and changed its course. This created an artificial path into the sea which was about hundred miles away from its previous mouth. This repair work took several decades before the final completion.
  • Before World War II, as a tactical approach, Chiang Kai-shek ordered his soldiers to break the embankments of the Yellow River. This was done to avoid the southwards influx of Japanese soldiers from Manchuria. Following this effort, millions of people were left homeless but the effort itself could not stop the Japanese intrusion.
  • Every year, an estimate of 1.5 billion tons of soil streams into the Yellow River and when there is flood, it appears like a flowing mudslide or chocolate milk. Some part of the sediment settles in the river beds and has caused the level of river to rise from 15 to 40 ft over the centuries. Under certain circumstances, this silt also blocks the natural drainage channels which make these areas prone to floods.
  • When the problem of large amount of silt and the rising level of water prevails, it calls for building higher embankments, need to frequently remove silt and build dams to prevent floods. The idea of building dams popped up with its own problems.
  • In order to protect the surrounding areas from the rising level of the water, embankments of 800 km were built by the Chinese. The water level of the river rises by 4 inches every year and this alarming rate demands huge levees.
  • The drying up of the river is another major concern for the people living here. It dried up for the first time in 1972 followed by another 30 times. When dried, it denies water to about 7.4 million acres of farmland. The river dried up for 136 days in 1996 and 226 days in 1997.
  • In 2008, about 600 million cubic metres of water was diverted to Beijing and Hebei and Shandong Provinces. This was done in order to supplement water to people suffering from drought and more than 70 million cubic metres for sailing events in 2008 Olympics.
  • A major part of water from the Yellow River is also wasted. About 65% of water is used for agricultural purposes of which half is lost due to leaks in the pipes and channels. There are provisions for the construction of 18 more dams which are expected to be completed by 2030. The dams on the Yellow River are considered to be the main cause of damage to the river as they aggravate silting and cause water pollution. Reduced water flow of the river causes the silt to settle down and decreases the river’s ability to flush out the pollutants.
  • In October 2006, in the city of Lanzhou in Gansu Province, about a km length of the Yellow River turned red. This was because of the smelly, red discharge into the river from a sewage pipe. Also, in December, 2005, one of the tributaries of the river contained six tons of diesel oil, which leaked when a pipe cracked as a result of freezing. What ensued was a 40 mile long slick!  
  • About 4,000 of the total 20,000 petrochemical factories lie on the Yellow River which leads to pollution of the river. The reasons why most of the species of fish in this water has become extinct are the high level of pollution and the falling water level.
  • Several efforts have been taken to distribute equitably the waterflow for more efficient use. As a measure to safeguard the Yellow River, new laws were initiated in August 2006 to avoid fights over the river. The ‘Water Resources Ministry’ was given the authority by Beijing to maintain its management in 11 provinces and municipalities.

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