Nov. 21, 2017


Searching for China’s Water (24) Toward the Mountains of the River’s Source

Searching for China’s Water (24) – Walking Toward the Mountains of the River’s Source  

Words and Pictures by Yangchuan Wang 

Writing this article, I had left the river’s source, and returned to Beijing. I saw two articles from Greensos’s River Information. One said that the Chinese scientific expedition wants to determine Qiequ of Dangqu, one of the three Yangtze River’s sources, as the birthplace of the Yangtze River, and the other said that the retreating speed of the glaciers of the Yangtze River’s source was accelerating.

Pull together 

Pull Walking in water
When we visited the rivers, we felt repeatedly that we had written a lot. We hope very much that through our appeal, more and more people begin to be concerned about the impact of global climate change on China's Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. The river’s source study is really hard, but it is also greatly significant. Walking in the river’s source is a way of enjoying nature. It is impossible to imagine such flavors and fun if you are not in it.
 For people who love nature, looking for Mother River‘s source is the most rewarding.  In my previous article, I wrote that Yong Yang had a different opinion on the dispute on the river’s source in the third phase of this year's "National Geographic." He thought that the water originated in Geladandong snow-capped mountains and accounted for about 80% of the entire volume of water of the Yangtze River, while Dangqu’s water was only 20%, and Qumar River’s water was even scarcer.
 The three sources of the Yangtze River, the Qumar River, the Dangqu and the Tuotuo River’s imported water were 10%, 20%, and 60% respectively.      An article in the third phase of "Chinese National Geography" said that the reason for changing the Yangtze River’s source to the Dangqu was that in the latest determination, the length of Dangqu was longer than the length of Tuotuo River. Yong Yang said that if the Tuotuo River’s glaciers were accurately measured, it maybe even longer.
         Yong Yang said that the glaciers of Dangqu did not directly form flows; rather they seeped into basins to form a shallow groundwater spring. The source change was because the source of Dangqu was east of the Tanggula Mountains, where there were very few glaciers. The glaciers of Tanggula were mainly in Geladandong.
 Thus, to find a new source of Tuotuo River, which is farther than Jianggudiru Glaciers in this trip, is one of the goals of Yong Yang. 
However, when I took the photographs of Gaqiadiru Glaciers which were the new source of the Yangtze River measured by Yong Yang,  to board a plane back to Beijing from Lhasa, I saw this message on a "Chengdu Business Daily" provided by the plane,
Discovered new sources of the Yangtze River and the Yellow River 
  
A landmark monument erected at the watershed of the Yangtze River and the Lancang River   

Expedition team’s cars were trapped at 6000 meters of the Qiequ’s source (Profile Photo)
The Qiequ’s source of Dangqu should be the source of the Yangtze River □ The Nazhalongcha’s source of Kariqu should be the source of the Yellow River 
 □ The Zhaaqu’s source should be the source of the Lancang River       A message from People's Network in Xining on July 16 (reporter: Fei-yu Chen), the results of three rivers’ sources scientific expedition recently were passed on to an expert group review, and the geographic coordinates of the sources of the Yangtze River, the Yellow River and the Lancang River were formally identified. According to the expedition, based on the principle of the longest river’s source, the Qiequ’s source of Dangqu was the source of the Yangtze River, the Nazhalongcha’s source of Kariqu was the source of the Yellow River, and the Zhaaqu’s source was the source of the Lancang River. After passing the experts’ review, the results of the  expedition were also required to go through legal procedures for approval.            "Three rivers’ sources scientific expedition” was organized by the Qinghai provincial government, directed by the national mapping agency, technically supported by the School of Surveying and Mapping of Wuhan University, implemented by the Surveying and Mapping Bureau of Qinghai Province, and started on September 6, 2008. The captain of the expedition team was a Deputy Secretary of the Surveying and Mapping Bureau of Qinghai Province, Qian-Li Tang; the Chief Scientist was a researcher of the remote sensing applications department at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shao-Chong Liu; and two academicians both of the Chinese Academies of Science and Engineering, Shu Sun, and Jun-Yong Chen also joined. 
 The goals of expedition activities were primarily for scientific, reasonable and accurate determination of the Yangtze, Yellow and Lancang rivers’ source location, and accurate determination of coordinates, elevation, and the other important geographic information and data, to provide a basis for various scientific researches.   Three rivers’ sources region was located in the hinterland of Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, where the birthplace of the Yangtze River, the Yellow River, and the Lancang River is located. This expedition was China's first large-scale scientific expedition carried out in three rivers’ sources. It lasted 41 days and traveled more than 7300 kilometers. In terms of technical force, composition, as well as logistical support, etc., this expedition could be the most powerful one in the history of China, being the largest in scale, the most complete scientific fields, and the most advanced technology.
How do we determine the new three rivers’ sources?     The internationally recognized three criteria to identify a river’s source are "the longest river’s source," "the largest flow," and "in the same direction with the mainstream," while taking into account drainage area, river development period, and historical habits.
 The criteria and methods to determine a river’s source of this expedition were: "In accordance with the international three criteria to identify a river’s source, namely, ‘the longest river’s source,’ ‘the largest flow,’ and ‘in the same direction with the mainstream,’ while taking into account drainage area, river development period, and historical habits."
  The expedition set the starting point at the intersection of the Dangqu and the Tuotuo River, Najibalongu. The length of Qiequ, the longest source of Dangqu, is 360.34 km, which is 11.71 km longer than the end length of 348.63 km of the Gaqiadiru Glaciers which is the longest tributary of the Tuotuo River. It is 16.62 km longer than the end length of 343.72 km of the Jianggudiru Glaciers which is also a tributary of the Tuotuo River. At the same time, Qiequ's flow and drainage area are both greater than that of the Tuotuo River. Moreover, Dangqu has the longest history in the Yangtze River’s source region and it therefore has more records of human activity. Therefore, Qiequ’s source at Dangqu should be the source of the Yangtze River. Qiequ originates in the north-east at an anonymous 5054-meter high platform in the northern branch of the eastern Tanggula Mountains of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, and it is under the administration of the Jieduo Township of Zaduo Town of the Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of the Qinghai Province.  According to the expedition, the Yellow River's starting point is set at the Maduo Yellow River Bridge. The longest source of Kariqu, the Nazhalongcha River, is 362.63 km long, which is 36.54 km longer than the length of the Yueguzongliequ which is 326.09 km long and is the longest tributary of Maqu. According to the criteria "the longest river’s source," Kariqu should be the source of the Yellow River. Kariqu’s flow is twice as much of Maqu’s. The source of the Kariqu is the Nazhalongcha River. It originates at a height of 2.2 km, northwest of the Taere of the Bayagela Mountains on the Tibetan Plateau, and it is under the administration of the Zaduo Township of the Chengduo Town of the Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. The results of the expedition showed that the water system of Lancang River’s source region included Zhaaqu water system and Zhanaqu water system. Setting the starting point as the bridge in the upper reaches of Zhaaqu in Zaduo Town, the length of Guyongqu, which was the longest tributary of Zhaaqu, was 207.40 kilometer. This was 2.96 km longer than the length of 204.44 km of Jiaguokongsangyemaqu, which was the longest tributary of Zhanaqu. Zhaaqu’s flow was 1.5 times Zhanaqu’s. Zhaaqu’s drainage area was 470.14 square kilometers larger than Zhanaqu’s. To sum up, Zhaaqu’s length, flow, and drainage area were all greater than Zhanaqu. Therefore, the source of Guyongqu which was the source of Zhaaqu, was the source of the Lancang River. It rose east of Caimosai in the northern foot of the Tanggula Mountains on the Tibetan Plateau, and it is under the administration of Zhaqing Township of Zaduo Town of Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture.       On the way back to Beijing, I told this news to Yong Yang who was still on the expedition of the Yang Yangtze River’s source.         Yong Yang was so surprised when he heard this news, but he said that after the expedition of “Responding to the Global Climate Change, Finding Water for China,” he would announce his determination to the media. He would insist on his determination that the new source of the Yangtze River was the Gaqiadiru Glaciers of the Tuotuo River. According to this determination, Tuotuo River’s new source was longer than Qiequ of Dangqu.
What kind of contest is this between a person's determination and the determination of the national scientific expedition team? Funding, equipment, power, publicity, and credibility......   It needs to take time to make a judgment.
 

A camp before the ice tongues of Gaqiadiru Glaciers
Searching for a river’s source includes too much content. 
 Understanding and recording a river’s source is not only a scientific endeavor. For politicians, economists, and scientists, it is a way to deal with the global climate change, and for ordinary people, photographing mountain scenery is enjoying the natural beauty.    So when we had begun to go back, the distant snow-capped mountains not only made Yong Yang decide to continue the expedition trip, but it  also influenced the people who accompanied him to immediately adjust their plans in order to continue enjoying the river’s source, and better understand the snow-capped mountains.

 

Look for the river’s source  

Look for the river’s source under snow-capped mountains
Many people who have gone to Tibet have such feelings that once you set foot on this land, you will be attracted to a kind of mystery. This mystery is natural, but also is cultural. In the Yangtze River’s source, natural mysteries are: the mystery of snow-capped mountains, the mystery of glaciers, the mystery of flows, the mystery of waterside mountain faces, the mystery of stones in the riverbed...... Mountains looked like faces of women with long hair, like Egyptian pharaohs, and stones looked like an eagle's head or a tiger's face ... ... You could see them whenever rising or bowing.

Long hair 

Map 

Eagle face 

 

Driving on the side of a mountain
This is the way toward the river’s source, toward snow-capped mountains to see the magic. In the river’s source, our cars stuck deeply in the mud, or in the water. Whenever some young people were struggling to get our cars from the water, our lens captured these mountains and these stones .
 

Ice of the river’s source

The weather of the river’s source changes very quickly

After I went back to Beijing, I read another article published in "Greensos’s River Information" on August 3. In fact, this was news worthy of international high concern. Thus, I copied it here:
The retreating speed of the Yangtze River glaciers is accelerating
Source: People's Network - "People's Daily Overseas Edition," August 1, 2009
http://env.people.com.cn/GB/9770032.html
 ● There is a reduction of 68.13 square km over the past 31 years
 ● There is a rapid retreat of 164 square km in last 6 years,
 ● 756 glaciers are mostly back, and two of them are gone
 ● Temperature rise is the main reason for glacier retreat
   According to the newspaper: Affected by global warming and other factorsin the past 37 years, the glacier area of the Yangtze River’s source region had an overall reduction in nearly 233 square km. The sharp speed of reduction in recent years is still increasing.      The results of the scientific expedition showed that from 1971 to 2002, the glacier area of the Yangtze River decreased by about 68.13 square km, and from 1283.66 square km down to 1215.53 square km. In 31 years, the overall shrinkage of glacier area was 5.3 %. Just from 2002 to 2008, in this six years, the glacier area of the Yangtze River was also rapidly retreating about 164 square km, with only 1051 square km left. The annual melting area of glaciers amounted to 989 million cubic meters.  The captain of three rivers’ sources scientific expedition team, Qian-Li Tang said, "There are a total of 756 glaciers in Yangtze River’s source, and most of them showed retreat, two small ones have completely disappeared. The height of the snow line in the river source region gradually increased from north to south, and from east to west. The average height of the snow line of the south slope of the Kunlun Mountains was 5345 meters, and it has risen to 5533 meters in the north slope of Tanggula. "           The leader of the eco-environment geological survey of the Yangtze River project, Yuan-Hong Xin said that in the continued massive glaciers melting, ice tongues of the glaciers of Yuzhu Everest of the Kunlun Mountains retreated back 1,500 meters in comparison to 1971, and an average back up to 42.86 m per year. In the glaciers of the east pass of the Tanggula Mountains, the maximum capacity of glacial lateral retreat was 125 meters, and positive retreat was 265 meters. In comparison to 1970, the annual positive retreat was 7.57 meters. This retreating was at an alarming rate.   Qian-Li Tang believed that the glaciers melting was controlled by the location and terrain conditions, it also had a close relationship to the overall magnitude of climate change. The observational data of three weather stations of the Yangtze River indicated that in recent decades warm-season’s temperatures rise was the main reason for the river’s source’s glacier retreat. 
 

This is also today’s river’s source 

This is also the river’s source
Walking in today’s river’s source, it was magical, but also lonely.
 Does pure and innocent nature want people in?
 Cognition of nature without interference and impact of nature is the truth which we human beings slowly understand in a long evolution.
 The lives captured in the river’s source live at an altitude of 5,000 meters of a wilderness, and experience the baptism of snow and hail every day.
 

Unknown fish in river

River’s source’s plants which grow between stones 

Flowers in the river’s source
 The people who perceive them and record them need to experience their living space.

  Walking in the river’s source alone 
 Tomorrow, another glacier under snow-capped mountains is our goal.


Translator:Ryan Yu
 




Copyright © 2011 - All Rights Reserved - 绿家园环境科学研究中心 京ICP备09016501号