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The Yellow River, "China's sorrow", in troubled times

ZHENGZHOU, China (AFP) — The Yellow River has traditionally been called "China's sorrow" and for Li Xiaoqiang, the grief strikes particularly close to home. Image: People cross a suspension bridge over the Yellow River in China's Henan Province

As a senior official with the Yellow River Conservancy Commission, Li observes -- up close and on a daily basis -- the gradual deterioration of China's second-largest waterway.

"The Yellow River is still in a pretty bad state," he told AFP, sitting in his sparsely furnished office in Zhengzhou, a major central Chinese industrial city on the river.

"The water levels are going down and water usage is going up, pollution is very serious, so it is a very difficult task to return the river to health."

Li explained how rampant overuse was leading the river to dry up and how 400 million Chinese who live along its banks foul the waterway with pollution despite their huge dependency on its waters.

"The river is very polluted, it goes through major industrial areas and China's coal production region, there is a huge population that lives near the river, all are emitting serious pollution," Li said.

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