If you’re burned out on reading about global warming, perhaps this environmental story will lift your spirits (NOT!). This article from the Asia Times tells of how China’s rivers are being depleted and polluted by the do-or-die race to industrialize:
Water in the Indus River is so clouded that the native dolphin has in effect lost its eyesight and has to detect prey and other objects through sound waves.
More than half of all the industrial waste and sewage in China flows into a single waterway, the Yangtze. And tributaries of the Ganges, one of Asia’s greatest cultural and religious treasures, are running dry because of the crippling burden of irrigation.
Such has been the legacy of the frantic Third World rush to industrialize at any cost, according to a landmark study by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) that was released as part of World Water Day on Thursday.
It found that 21 of the world’s greatest rivers, including the Yangtze, Mekong, Salween, Ganges, Indus and Tigris-Euphrates in Asia, were struggling to survive against the tide of man-made pollution and the diversion of water through dams, pipes and irrigation.
“We’re talking about a complete collapse of the system – they’re so polluted, so over-extracted or so cut up by dams that it’s really not functioning as a river anymore,” said Tom Le Quesne, freshwater-policy officer at WWF. “It’s a challenge that humanity faces not far off the scale of climate change.”
So many lives depend on these river systems that the economies of emerging Asia could be ravaged and there could be immense social upheaval, including the loss of food security and employment. About 450 million people draw water, food and electricity supplies from the Yangtze alone, while many more use it for transportation. [full text]