As a result of decades of unchecked development and poor decision making, China’s inland rivers are suffering a crisis and are in the midst of severe losses of biodiversity. Currently there is a serious lack of conservation measures and a shortage of funding to protect endangered aquatic species.
According to an expert from Changjiang Fishery Resources Managing Committee, there used to be more than 1,100 species in the Yangtze River, including more than 370 fish species, over 220 zoobenthos (organisms which live on the riverbed), and hundreds of aquatic plants. The rapid development of economic zones in the Yangtze River basin has caused a rapid decline in aquatic biological resources. Now many species like the Chinese river dolphin and the Chinese paddlefish face extinction. The famous Reeves’ Shad, once important to local fisheries, has not been seen for many years. “Living fossils” such as the Chinese sturgeon have also rapidly decreased in numbers and at an even faster pace.
It is baffling to me that when we were initially constructing the Three Gorges Dam, we didn’t learn from the experiences of developed countries that built fish ladders for migratory fish. Even Vietnam and Laos, our neighbors to the south are installing fish ladders in their new hydropower projects. Since the formation of the Three Gorges Reservoir, the dam has blocked the migratory routes that the fish need in order to reproduce. The “transform rivers into lakes” strategy seeks to inundate rapids and exposed shoals in the river to promote for the safe passage of ships, but many fish that are used to living in the rapids are gradually migrating upstream resulting in a reshuffling of river basin ecosystems. The dam has also had a major impact on yearly fish catches. During this year’s rare summer droughts, thousands of fishermen along the water basin were left with empty nets. Continue reading