The Path of the Yellow River through China (2) Middle Reaches
The Yellow River is China's second longest river, measuring some 5464 kilometers (3,395 miles) in length. It is the world's 6th longest river.
The Yellow River is known in Chinese as Huang He and also as Huang Ho depending on spelling.
The drainage basin of the Yellow River, known as the Yellow River basin, is the third largest of all rivers in China (P.R.C.), encompassing a surface area of around 750,000 square kilometers (290,000 square miles)(official: 742,443 km² (290,520 mi²).
It extends 1900 kilometers (1.180 miles) from West to East and 1100 km (684 miles) from South to North.
The China Report
Introduction to the Yellow River (Huang He - 黃河) - China's 2nd largest River
Schematic Map of the Flow Path of the Yellow River through China.
Click Map to go to FULL Version !
Map 1 of the Silk Road during the early Tang Dynasty Era. Clearly depicts the North & South Routes West of Dunhuang as well as the lost civilizations of Loulan and Hotan.
LANZHOU PREFECTURE AND LANZHOU CITY:
Having passed the historic borderzone with Tibet the Yellow River finally advances on the city of Lanzhou. It is particularly this section where it enters a zone that is subject to heavy industrial pollution.
Situated at roughly halfway through the loess plateaux, the City of Lanzhou is an important industrial city and for many centuries a central communications point for the larger region. In history Lanzhou was the point where the main pathway of the Silk Road leading westward out of Chang'An (Xi'An) in Shaanxi Province met the important barrier of the Yellow River. Having to await their chance for crossing -depending on season- many travelers and traders, among them famous names, halted on the South River bank where a commercial center and eventually a large city emerged.
YELLOW RIVER BEYOND LANZHOU CITY:
Beyond the city of Lanzhou Proper, the Yellow River continues into the Gaolan County of Lanzhou Prefecture, a traditionally impoverished rural district of modest sized farms and orchards along the river, sheep herders and fishermen. It is in Gaolan County where the most human corpses are retrieved from the river. Most of them again on a hydro-electric dam situated at some 18 kilomters downstream from the river.
Middle reaches of the Yellow River (2a) Yellow River in Gansu Province:
IMAGE SCROLLER: Scenes from the Banks of the Yellow River at Lanzhou in Gansu Province (November 2007).
Much more recently, during the chaotic years of the Republic of China led by Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Chek, it became the new Nation's prime hub for the Petrochemical industry which received the oil from China's only operational oil field situated around the Jiuquan Prefecture in the Hexi Corridor. The original Laojunmiao Oilfield, the earliest oilfield discovered in China, lies in the arid Jiuquan Basin in Gansu Province and was opened for exploitation in the year 1939 AD. At the time, the only large industrialized city in the wider regions was the city of Lanzhou conveniently located along the abundant water source of the yellow river. Thus, the oil from the Yumen Oil Fields had to be sent to Lanzhou for further refinement and then distribution. Later, after the advent of the Peoples Republic of China in 1949/50 oil was found in various other locations in the west, mainly in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region adding to the available supply. As an important strategic industry, during the further industrial development the city received plenty of central Government attention as well as - for a while- Soviet (U.S.S.R.) Advisors, slowly growing it into the largest petrochemical center, transportation hub and also military headquarters within the central western regions.
After springing from the rugged and remote regions between the Qaidam Pendi Shan and the Tangula Dangla Mountains that seperate Qinghai Province from Tibet Autonomous Region, the water from the yellow rivers many sources trickles slowly eastward through marches and meets the two lakes of Hyaring and Ngoring Hu, near Madoi in the region between the Amnye Machin Mountains and the Bayan Har Range in Eastern Qinghai Province. These are all lands inhabited in majority by the Tibetan Ethnic Minority and are regarded as parts of Tibet.
After flowing out of the Gyaring and Ngoring Lakes (Respectively re-dubbed Zhaling Lake and Eling Lake by the Chinese) situated in Madoi County of the Golog Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture (Qinghai) on what today is the border of Tibet Autonomous region (T.A.R.) and Qinghai Province the river is finally shaped into one. Increasing in speed it thunders in a curve through South-East
Qinghai to flow along the edge of the Tibetan Plateaux on the border with Gansu Province in its south-westernmost corner.
The yellow river enters Gansu , then flows south of Awancang Town to the Sichuan Province Border from where it sweeps upward and northernly again to pass Xining, the capital of Qinghai (in East Tibet) before it returns to Gansu Province for a second spectacular pass through the Province.
This page was last updated on: May 24, 2017
My Great Web page
Map of Lanzhou City Prefecture of Gansu Province
A rough Geographic overview Map of Lanzhou City and City Prefecture of South Gansu Province. Map depicts Lanzhou's five city districts stretched along the Yellow River Banks, four outlying counties.
Sites and locations included are main highways and roads, Lanzhou Zhongcuan Airport, main railway lines, main mountains and heights, rivers and Lakes as well as main monuments & landmarks of the City & Area and main ethnic minority population centers such as Tianzhu Tibetan Autonomous Township, Minhe Hui Autonomous Township.
Locations of the Great Wall of China in the Vicinity are included with Links to Reports with more Photos and background information on each site.
CHENGGUAN DISTRICT - OLD CITY DISTRICT OF LANZHOU:
Having past the industrial and educational districts , the Yellow River finally reaches the old city of Lanzhou. This is the Chengguan District, most of which is crammed between the steep loess cliffs above
Lanzhou first Yellow River Subway System:
With development as well as urbanization progressing at a rapid pace, the traffic within the city of Lanzhou has become impossible congested. Lanzhou has an average road traffic density of 628 vehicles per kilometer, which is twice as many as in Hong Kong. Hence, in order to allow for future developments and ease the frustrations of its working citizens, the city of Lanzhou has recently announced its plans to build the first ever subway (underground) train system in the city. This subway system will also become the first such system to be constructed on the Yellow River.
The first construction was undertaken on March 28th of 2014 and the system is planned
to become operational in the year 2017. The new underground trains will be connecting the north and south banks of the river with two tunnels and also extend up river to the educational district of Qilihe.
This Schematic overview Map shows the Anning and Xigu Districts of Lanzhou, located upstream from the Downtown Districts ofChengguan and Qilihe.
Browse the Map to explore the city and find your way tothe Main landmarks, monuments and hotspots of this part of the City.ClickthelocationsandLinkthroughtomoreInformationandPhotosoneachlocation!
Map - Anning + XiguDistricts ofLanzhou
This Schematic overview Map shows the two most important and interesting Districts of Lanzhou, the Chengguan District and the neighboring Qilihe District, West and upstream.TheChengguan,astheoriginalcityofLanzhouholdsmostofthehistoricremnantsandalthoughfullofmodernbuildingsandtoweringhighrises,todayisstillthemainculturalcenteroftheCity. Qilihe is home a more modern section of Town fully integrated with Chengguan and including the Western Railway Station.
Browse the Map to explore the city and find your way tothe Main landmarks, monuments and hotspots of this part of the City.ClickthelocationsandLinkthroughtomoreInformationandPhotosoneachlocation!
Map - Chengguan + QiliheDistricts ofLanzhou
Gate of the fantastic White Cloud Temple in Lanzhou, an ancient Daoist Temple which was constructed on the south bank of the river in the Chengguan District in the 19th Century. Still very much active, today it is one of the old cultural gems of an increasingly modern city.
and the narrow river banks below. The Chengguan District, with its history going back well over 2 millennia, is by far the most interesting district of the City. Here one finds among things; the main city Mosque; after its destruction during the Cultural Revolution Era (1966 AD -1976 AD) rebuilt in the 1980's to appease the local Hui populace, several Buddhist Temples and Parks as well as the (first) Christian Church of the city on the Silk Road. Where in the bygone feudal centuries, ships and floats crossed the river, several modern bridges now handle the increasingly abundant traffic.
Bridges on the Yellow River in Lanzhou:
The first ever bridge spanning the Yellow River was the Zhongshan No. 1 Yellow River bridge which can still be found in the center of the Chengguan District of Lanzhou. Today, many
decades later there are several additional large bridges crossing the River Today. One of the old Bridges in the City, the small Zhongli Huanghe Bridge was torn down in 2007 AD having been made redundant by the others and a large highway bridge, the Donggang Huanghe Bridge, that crosses the River near the Eastern (downstream ) end of the 'downtown' area connecting to the North Bank, the Luizhong Expressway and Lanzhou-Zhongcuan Airport beyond to the North.
On the North (or West) Bank of the Yellow River inside the Old City district, directly across the Zhongshan Bridge that marks this ancient crossing point of the Yellow River, in use by mankind for well over 2000 years, stands the Baita Shan, the White Horse Hill. Although little spoken of in historic annals of today (at least in the West), it is one of the greatest historic landmarks of the city and region. Along its flanks sit a Park and various traditionally styled buildings and pavilions and atop the Hill sits the Baita Si , White Horse Temple with its Yuan Dynasty Erastone Dagoba Pillar. The various levels of the Park and temple offer an unparalleled view of the great Yellow River and the City built along its banks.
Although little word is heard internationally of massive chemical spills in this area, giving only general information it is known that the Yellow River is generally speaking heavily polluted by the time it has passed the city of Lanzhou. Nevertheless, the city is obliged to take much of its drinking water from the yellow river as virtually no precipitation falls in the wider regions for most parts of the year.
According to an article by the Daily Mail of 25 November 2008 ″Many polluting firms in the upper and middle reaches of the Yellow River have not been well monitored by local governments or protected because they give jobs to workers″. Generally speaking because the western inland Provinces were also the poorest Provinces, over the past decades they have been eager to make circumstances as attractive for local industries as possible, including overlooking heavy violations of environmental rules and laws. As a result of these practices and regardless of the fact that the waters of the river are essential for agricultural production and human usage, the Yellow River has long been treated as the sewage channel for all industries set up along the length of the river. The long term costs of pollution have long been ignored although recently, since around the year 2010 increased public attention have forced local and regional Governments to face the dillemma. This is a problem replicated all over the Peoples Republic of China.
As for the water quality in the city of Lanzhou, a vivid illustration of the problem and its dangers was given when in October of 2008 the Yellow River in Lanzhou suddenly turned blood red, alarming the local citizenry and the larger Nation. For the world it was all News but for the locals it followed an all too
Chemical Leakage and Pollution of the Yellow River in- and around Lanzhou:
In reality it is not but at least until fairly recently, it did more or less get this function. That is, as with the Yellow River itself, local industries are known to have dumped their waste waters directly into the Leitan River transforming its waters into a muddy and toxic sludge. The biggest incident so far along the Leitan River occurred on May 28, 2008 when a hazardous foam discharged from a plant belonging to Gansu Xingrong Fine Chemicals Co, Ltd, starting making its way downstream. Although local farmers tried desperately to stop the foam and toxins from flowing down, the damage spread down the river. Production at the plant was halted immediately and its ownership was ordered to pay a relatively puny fine of 100,000-yuan ($14,700) but that was it. Xinrong Fine Chemicals remains in business today and one may wonder about the water quality of the Leitan River.
Since the year 2007 much has changed again within the city of Lanzhou. For one; villages in the arid countryside of the Loess plateaux have been abandoned and more people have come to live within the city looking for an improvement of their livelihoods. In a drive for both urbanization and development of the western inland regions, new housing and new industries have emerged in the city, swelling the number of it citizens to nearly twice the size, about 3.6 million. New
The last stretch of the Leitan River, flowing off the loess plateux and through the Chengguan District of Lanzhou to join up with the Yellow River at small distance downstream from the Waterwheel Park (Pjoto: November 2007).
solutions are sought to combat the pollution of both air and river, and to deal with the dire situation of traffic within the city. As everywhere in China, the advent of private car ownership in China has - over time- resulted in chaos in this long, narrow and outstretched city along the river banks.
LEI TAN RIVER:
A little upstream from the White Cloud Temple, almost adjacent it on the South Bank of the river, the minor tributary of the Lei Tan He (雷坛河) empties into the Yellow River. The Leitan River flows out of the rural Angan Township near the Xinglongshan Natural Reserve due south of Lanzhou City. It can be followed from a place known as Tang Kiln situated in the hills south and opposite of the Xinglong Shan from where it makes a wide westward arc, eventually to reach Lanzhou Shifogou National Forest Park. Continuing onward to pass the last loess hills that seperate it from the great Yellow River it heads southward to reach the Old City. Here it flows underneath of cities Lan Mountain (Lanshan) and its scenic park before reaching the residential area's of the cities Chengguan District in the narrow strip of land on its very west side (near the Main Mosque, West Gate Mosque). For most of its length its valley and waters are followed by the S101 Provincial Road.
Within the old city district Leitan He passes the historic 'Woqiao' Bridge (握桥) and the more modern Linxia Road Bridge and Nanbehe East Road Bridge (G109) its final leg before finally joining up with the mighty Yellow River. In its last few kilometers the small Leitan River much resembles a drainage canal.
The Province of Gansu is famed for it steep and narrow Gorges that force the river into a wild torrent with many vortexes, rapids and hidden dangers. The first such Canyon or Gorge is the Longyang Gorge (in Qinghai), where the Yellow River passes from Qinghai (Eastern Tibet) into Gansu Province. In total there are 20 gorges and river rapids in this traditionally most dangerous of all Yellow River sections. The (historically) most spectacular yellow river Gorges are found at Longyang, in western Gansu Province at Jishi and Liujia, and downstream from the Capital of Lanzhou at Bapan, and the last; the Qingtong Gorge (Bronze Gorge - 青銅峽) well beyond in Ningxia where the Yellow River leaves the Loess Plateaux behind it.
The steep Gorges and large elevation drops of the Loess Plateaux section of the River make it impassable for any type of shipping but ideal for the construction of Dams. Hence, in the last Half Century many of the Gorges and their rapids have been dammed in order to both regulate the tempestuous river and make use of its hydro-electric energy potential. The first dam to emerge in the region was the Xingtong Gorge Dam activated in 1968 AD, giving rise to the Qingtong Gorge Reservoir of the Yellow River (in Qingtongxia District, Wuzhong City, Ningxia AR). Since, the LiuJia Gorge has also been dammed leading to the emergence of LiuJiaXia reservoir south-West and upstream of Lanzhou.
Just upstream from the city of Lanzhou, the Yellow River is joined by the Huangshui River (湟水). The Huangshui river flows from the North (or West) Bank a few kilometers above the city limits of the Xigu District and Anning Districts of the urban city of Lanzhou and upstream from the Hekou Bend of the Yellow River.
It forms but a short section of the much longer river, the Gan (Chinese: Gan Jiang) which flows from Tibet into the Chinese Regions below the Amdo and Kokonor Regions (Qinghai Lake section) of the Tibetan Plateaux. Its source is found somewhere near the Kokonor, today better known as the Qinghai Lake, not by chance the largest inland sweet water lake in the entire Peoples Republic of China today.
Today Lanzhou, is a city of millions situated at the bottom of the deep Gorge carved by the river into the Loess Plateaux. Usually covered in a thick haze of smog, it is home to an extensive chemical industry much of which is found upstream from the city, roughly between the border with the adjacent Linxia Hui Autonomous Prefecture and the Old Central City District of Lanzhou, the Chengguan District.
Swollen by the recent City Migration Drive encouraged by the Government, roughly, the urban area's of the City of Lanzhou count over 3.6 Million inhabitants most of whom are crammed together along the narrow river banks like sardines in a can.
The main section of the City - where a sea of Highrises has arisen along the river since 2007 - lies on the South Bank, although that certainly does not encompass all of the current day city.
A man stands on the Zhongli Yellow River Bridge in Lanzhou viewing the rise of new residential apartment flats along the river. A thick yellow gray haze covers the city, as usual (Photo: November 2007).
Additional newer districts extend up river from what can be considered the Old City on the only flat land available. The new educational district for instance lies on the north bank of the river as does much of the chemical industry.
In its upstream sections it passes the Boahutu Mountain, situated in what today has been renamed into the Haiyan County (Chinese: 海晏县) of the Haibei Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture (Chinese: 海北藏族自治州) of Qinghai Province which has a diverse multi-ethnic population of Salar, Yugur, Tibetan, Mongolian, Tu, Han and other inhabitants. Traditionally thinly populated, these regions have recently seen an influx of Han Chinese immigrants looking for ″Lebensraum″.
With the G109 National Road and G6 Jinzang Xining to Lanzhou Expressway running alongside it for most of its length following the valley downwards, the Huangshui River flows through the city of Xining, and the county towns of Minhe and Ping' An before finally ending in the Yellow River near Lanzhou. The Lanqing Railroad, the train connection between Lanzhou and Xining follows roughly the same route.
Minhe is the nominal Capital County Town of the Minhe Hui and Tu Autonomous County (Chinese:民和回族土族自治县) of Haidong ″Tibetan Autonomous″ Prefecture in the neighboring Qinghai Province) whereas Ping' An is the county town Capital of the Ping' An County (Chinese: 平安县) which recently lost its status as Ethnic Autonomous County due to recent unrest involving the Tibetan Community as well as an influx of Han migrants overturning the majority status of the ethnic groups within the county altogether.
In its trajectory between the city of Xining and its termal point
A Schematic Map of Historical Tibet, today Tibet Autonomous Region, Qinghai Province and a part of Sichuan province.
Included for reference are current International Borders, provincial borders, locations and names of main cities and towns, main rivers and lakes, mountains,importantTibetan-BuddhistMonasteries and other places of significance.
Further Reports link to More Photos and History & Backgrounds of each City, Town or Ethnic Community of Yugur, Dongxiang Tibetan, Lhoba, Kazakh, Mongol or others where available.
Today Tibet only exists as Tibet Autonomous Region of China. Tourist visits require an aditional visa !
near Lanzhou the Huangshui River receives several tributary flows itself, among things from the Datong River which joins with the Huangshui River at the county town of Minhe.
Although not much is known about the Huangshui River proper, it may be noted that it runs largely through rural mountainous area's.
No known dams have been built in the Huangshui River on its stretch between Xining and Lanzhou. Since December 2012 however, officials plans have been presented for the construction of a small hydro-electric dam on the Huangshui River at some point along the river in Ping' An County. This UNFCCC sponsored renewable energy project falls under the clean development mechanism arrangements of the Kyoto Protocol. It is officially known as Gansu Huangshui Ping' An small power project and will be executed in cooperation with a Dutch and a Swiss Firm. After completion the electricity generated is calculated to save the equivalent of the 42 thousand metric tons of CO2 per year, which would otherwise have needed to be generated by burning coal.
As recently as April 17 of 2014 local authorities reported the find of 170 dead pigs in the ″Xining Section″ of this river. Apparently an autopsy revealed that the animals had not been infected with the infectious disease called zoonosis but no reason for their death and eventual dumping was given or mentioned. Not much relevant information was given with the report of this find on the general water quality of the river either. In general however it can be said that by the time the Huangshui River merges with the larger and more famous Yellow River its waters are equally muddy and brown as seen in its counterpart.
On the route along the Huangshui River between Xining and Lanzhou lie various interesting historic landmarks and other points relevant for travelers. The river leaves Xining flowing south of the Beishan Site Forest Park of East Xining City. From there it makes its way to- and past Xining Caojiaboa Airport to flow to the town of Ping' An. Just beyond lies the White Horse Temple (Baima Si) of Ping' An which is situated on the north bank overlooking the river. Many miles beyond a site known as Liuwan Cemetery lies along the river, also on the north bank. Further on down in Minhe Town one can find the Manchangyuan ancient relic site along the Huangshui River. This relic site is situated on the southern bank of the river. Wayaotai ancient relics site is found due east of Minhe Town proper in the hills above the rivers south bank. Hire a Taxi for a day to take drive you to the destinations of your interest along the river. Alternatively one may make use of the Lanqing Railroad to travel to both Minhe and Ping' An Towns and explore the vicinity from the train stations in these towns.
Finally the Huangshui River passes the border of Qinghai Province and into Gansu Province at the otherwise insignificant town of Hezui (Xiang). Only a few miles beyond it passes underneath the G309 National Road bridge before reaching the Yellow River around Shichengzi (village).
Huangshui River Dam:
LANZHOU NEW AREA:
is set to emerge here along the Yellow River.
The gargantuan new project, involving new industries, a new airport for Lanzhou City as well as more highrises for the swelling urban population of the city has been named as ″Lanzhou New Area″.
Altogether the project, massive even on a Chinese scale, is planned to encompass a huge 500 square miles (130,000 hectares) area, all part of what is today part of the arid and uninhabitable loess plateaux. In the creation of the Lanzhou New Area some 700 mountains, or hills of the loess plateaux are being leveled while water is planned to be diverted in order to feed the arising new city. A reforestation project is supposed to make the city more hospitable for the newly wealthy middle class citizens who are hoped will be moving some years into the future. Where the people will come from is a question that remains as yet unanswered.
What has already been dubbed the largest mountain moving project in Chinese history will change the landscape of the Yellow River upstream from the city of Lanzhou forever vastly expanding the size of the city. In order to deal with the traffic between the various districts new railway lines and a light railway are
YouTube Video: Lanzhou New Area Promo. 700 Loess Mts to be flattened in order to erect entirely new city metropolis.
planned. In addition Lanzhou City is planning a subway/metro system to run below the river, eventually connecting the New City with the Old City miles downstream.
The first flattening of Loess Hills on the north bank of the river beyond the Baita Shan, Confucius Temple and the ignomious Fenghuangtai Forest Park has already commenced, starting in October of 2013. As one can make out from the Google Map of the area, a large are has already been flattened.
However, since the wide spread publication of details of the project have circulated nationwide multiple doubts have arisen about the intelligence and viability of building a new city district from scratch. To begin with, with their city declared the most (air) polluted city in the entire Peoples Republic of China in 2007, and the air just having cleared somewhat (in February of 2014 Lanzhou had dropped to the place of 31st in the listing of most polluted cities in China), civilians have aired doubts about building another district at the bottom of the Yellow River canyon.
Another problem sighted is the possible further silting of the already dust laden Yellow River through the flattening of hills, causing woes further downstream.
An additional fear of the population is the threat of pollution of the water of the Yellow River, the lifeline of the larger regions, turning Lanzhou into a "cancer city". Naturally the citizens of Lanzhou are not keen to welcome the arrival of additional petrochemical industries, textiles-, fertilizer- and metallurgical industries given the fact that most pollution in the river is caused by exactly these industries.
In 2013 several influential political groups and institutes have added voices of criticism questioning the economical and ecological viability of the 2.2 Billion dollar project. For instance; as published by The Guardian Newspaper and Business Insider, Liu Fuyuan, a former high-level official at the country's National Development and Reform Commission, told the influential China Economic Weekly that the project was unsuitable because Lanzhou is frequently listed as among China's most chronically water-scarce municipalities. "The most important thing is to gather people in places where there is water," he said.
Clearly, if Lanzhou, which is situated in regions where water resources are already over stretched, were in effect to double in population size, the Yellow River could well run dry, as it occurred in the lower reaches of the River several years ago.
In April of 2013 announcements emerged of the halting or indefinite postponement of the Lanzhou New City Project, although no official conformation of this has been published through such mouthpiece channels as Xinhua Newspaper or Peoples Daily at this time.
As much as was made of the find of 170 dead pigs in the Huangshui Tributary of the Yellow River, the news of which reached around the world, as little is made of another ongoing tragedy along the mighty old river. Although internationally it has been established that as much as half the yearly suicides in the world occur in the Peoples Republic of China few details of this enormous problem are revealed internationally (official sources put the number at at least 26% of world suicides, but many such deaths go unreported). As such, not much is known about ″suicide hotspots″ in China. What is however known is that the Yellow River in Lanzhou (City) Prefecture sees a multitude of suicides every year.
The high number of dead found in the river was already revealed as early as the year 2002. In 2006 the Lanzhou business journal wrote an angry article about the phenomenon of payed for recoveries in the city, complaing about the practice, which eventually attracted more media attention. The Lanzhou Morning Post reported in 2009 that nearly 300 suicide victims were recovered from the river, with 30 percent of them unable to be identified. Subsequently, in the year 2010 the internationally renowned journalist Tom Lasseter published a story on the rich harvest of human remains to be had along the river downstream of the city of Lanzhou titled: ″China's dark side: On Yellow River, corpses mean cash″. In this article one of the many fishermen engaged in the payed recovery of the dead from the yellow waters is said to find around 80 to a 100 dead each year.
By November of 2012 the China Daily Newspaper published an article which finally came up with more specific numbers, shockingly revealing the high number of self inflicted deaths in this area.
According to China Daily ″over the past 50 years the 80 kilometers of the Yellow River upstream of Lanzhou, in the northwest rural Gansu Province, has seen more than 10,000 floating dead″.
”Ghost Men of the Yellow River”:
Although there are relatively few such people within Lanzhou City, in the surrounding rural country side the recovery of the dead from the river has become a business all by itself. Not only have the fisherman on the polluted river found an alternative source of income, local farmers and others have joined in prefering the recovery of a few dead over the hard labor on the arid and increasingly unproductive loess lands along the river. In walls in villages and along roads and orchards, those involved in payed for recovery, as some call it ″body fishers″, advertise their business with mobile telephone numbers adjacent.
A few private workers work daily making body recoveries for private parties against cash payments. The latter often involves the wish of a family to recover the body of a relative of whom it is suspected she or he jumped into the river seeking death. At other times the corpse is identified through paperwork, wallet, bank cards, etc. In such cases a search party may recover body in exchange for money. Reportedly, those who are involved in this business make quite a handsome living off it.
Due to the fact that in effect, the Yellow River is a liquid boneyard, the waters are polluted and infected by the floating human debris. Although the problem has existed for many years, no solutions are known to have been devised for the problem. This goes equally for the burials and disposure of those who are lucky enough to be retrieved and receive an official, often state funded, funeral.
After receiving the waters of the Huangshui River, the Yellow River continues around the Hekou Bend turning due eastward on its heading towards the outskirts of the city of Lanzhou. The river then meets the urban city limits of the Anning District of Lanzhou on the north bank and the Xigu District on the south bank. Just beyond, on the north bank opposite the old city of Lanzhou a whole new city district
As it is now known, the Lanzhou police opened a station on the river's banks as early as in 1980 to coordinate the recovery of bodies.
In the China Daily article relating to the situation in Lanzhou City and Prefecture a local Policeman of the Lanzhou Water Police Station tells of how “Between April and September this year (I.e 2012), there were on average at least 20 corpses being salvaged each month,”. Apparently, the number mentioned by the Policeman was only the tip of the ice-berg as it includes only the bodies salvaged by Police, mainly near the city of Lanzhou. The real numbers are probably far higher for a number of reasons.
Firstly, from the limited publications available on the subject it can be established that most bodies are found upstream of the city, most often floating among debris caught in a dam. Bodies caught upon dams are often found by the local poor, who scavenge the debris for anything useful or tradable. Finding a dead persons body may mean a good payday. But due to the nature of affairs, the find usually is not reported to authorities.
Secondly, not all bodies that end up in the river are actually found floating on the surface. It must be assumed that bodies not yet decomposed are dragged into the turbines of the hydro-electric dams on the Yellow River in this river stretch, churning the dead into minced meat. Although body parts are also found along the river one might wonder if all shattered bodies are found and subsequently identified.
Thirdly, the assumed many other corpses found and retrieved by the Chengguan City Guards - responsible for city cleanliness, hygiene, order and a number of other functions - as well as private contractors are also not included in the number. Indeed, other local sources say that at least 200 to 300 bodies are found floating in the murky waters of the river each month.
Fourthly and lastly, various local authorities admit to frequently returning a body to the river in the hope of it floating off downstream or perhaps, just to vanish never to be seen again. Local scavengers tell basically the same story. That is, bodies that can not be identified or sold back to grieving family members are usually ”given back to the spirit of the mother river”.
The Linxia Hui Autonomous Prefecture and Lanzhou City Prefecture of Gansu Province are by no means the only localities to suffer an unnerving number of dead in the river. Other such stories are told about other locations along the Yellow River, among things downstream in Baiyin Prefecture and in Henan Province. Other water bodies report the same problem and in fact, it appears as though a nationwide epidemic of suicides is occurring.
The local people involved in the findings; mainly fisherman, scavengers, dam workers and Police, relate the unusual number of bodies found face down in the river to the extra-ordinary stress the economic boom of the last decades has inflicted on citizens nationwide. The dead found often turn out to be landless migrants who have lost out in the competition in the city, the heavily indebted and as the police claims, occasionally a murder victim. Others are more suspicious and claim that quite a few of the dead are murdered anonymous people, finished off by the gansters in Lanzhou City and dumped in the river to disappear. Some say that the gagged and bound bodies recovered are people who have been mistreated and dumped by corrupt local Police officers.
As for the economic victims: it is well known that the city of Lanzhou, as with other Chinese megacities, is a meat grinder in which many of those who flock to the city in order to find a better life perish among the dire competition. Migrant construction workers often have to accept low pay and dangerous conditions. A high number of the dead found are however women not men. Women fall into the poverty trap, move on to prostitution and so wind up dead in the river. Others are women who are married out to rural families with whom they cannot get along. As one of the Ghost Men of the River related to McClatchy Newspaper in 2010 “Most of the bodies that are not claimed by relatives are female migrant workers who had moved to Lanzhou”. “Most of them have been murdered.”
Generally speaking, people are aware that local businessmen can operate above the law and it is suspected that those who run afoul with those in power can pay the ultimate price. Perhaps those who experience work related accidents are more convenient when they disappear. Annoying workers who claim back-pay or organize (illegal) unions are dealt with harshly.
Many victims, the young and the old, also simply jump off one of the several available bridges all by themselves, choosing death over the hard daily struggle of life. Other reasons for the high number of dead found in the river may exist. No one knows if the Government is involved in any of the deaths or if it could be.
YouTube Video by Lanzhou Green Camel Bell Environmental activist group: Lanzhou Pollution, China. (July 2010).
familiar pattern. That is, smaller such events had been happening in the smaller tributary rivers frequently since several decades, however this sort of news had never really reached the outside world.
As with previous cases, at the time, no source and culprit could be found and the nature of the spill remained largely unknown. However, but a month later a seemingly similar event occured at which time it was determined that the colored pollutant must have come from a (city central) heating station situated up river from the city. The Firm had added the non toxic red dye to its waters in order to prevent locals from siphoning off the waters for other uses. No dangers had existed,
but it might as well have been a major incident cutting off the water supply for millions of people not to mention 100's of industries and 1000's of farms downstream.
As recently as Friday 11 April 2014 a massive spill of the carcinogenic chemical Benzene was unveiled after local residents had already reported feeling sick for two days. As reported on by The Guardian newspaper (and other channels), the revelation caused a panicky run on bottled water and soda, as city residents refused to make use of any of the tap water in the city and surrounding village districts. Only after the Government published an all safe message via the National News Outlet Xinhua Agency some calm returned. In the aftermath of the affair, Xinhua Newspaper revealed that second water-related incident had occurred in Lanzhou but a little over month previous.
In March of 2014, residents reported a strange odor when they turned on their taps. It was found to be a high concentration of ammonia, but altogether the concentration of the chemicals in the drinking water was found to be within national limits.