China Guide

The Yellow River Its Floods, Facts, History Pollution

Yellow River

Originating at the Bayan Har Mountains in Western China, the famous Yellow River runs through several provinces before pouring into the Bohai Sea. Whilst it is famous for its status as China’s second longest river and the World’s seventh longest at approximately 5,464km, it is largely famous for its often devastating impact. The river’s name comes from the dirty yellow colour from the loess that is eminent in its lower reaches.

Many Chinese believe that the river was the ‘cradle’ of civilization and is therefore known as ‘China’s pride’ and Mother River, however the devastating and frequent floods that has plagued the river also gives the river the nickname ‘china’s sorrow’ for all those who have lost their lives to it.

It is believed that the Yellow River’s continuous flooding is mainly caused by the raised river bed in the river’s lower course. These floods have caused some devastating fatalities especially with the 1887 Huang He flood which killed up to 2million civilians while the 1931 Huang He flood caused the death of up to 4million. In fact the Yellow River has been the cause of some of the highest death tolls in history. The river has flooded more than 1,500 times within the space of three to four thousand years.

However it isn’t only the river that has caused so much damage, the river’s well being has been in high debate. Largely as a result of an increase in farming, factories and the growing number of cities and city borders, the Yellow River’s water is not coping well with the relentless pollution pouring into it. The result is the river being poisoned making a large portion of it unsuitable for even industrial use. The toxic discharges and large city sewage is fast making the Yellow River a site of severe contamination.

What used to be a piece of beautiful nature is now fast becoming a dried up and stained consequence of uncontrolled economic expansion with little regard for the environmental impact such growth has. This is very sad for the Chinese people as some of the earliest evidence of civilisation in China was found along this river and is therefore an important symbol of Chinese beginnings.

It is hoped that with so much media coverage about the state of the river that change will occur and processes put in place to save the river from becoming a major hazard.