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TOPIC: yellow river

This Happened

This Happened — June 7: Yellow River Flood

On this day in 1938, the Yellow River experienced a major flood during the Second Sino-Japanese War when the Chinese Nationalist government deliberately destroyed the dikes along the river to halt the advancing Japanese forces.

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Nova Kakhovka Attack — Dams Are A Favorite Target Of War

Stunning images of the attack of Nova Kakhovka dam, which had been described as a strategically important target, serve as a reminder that military forces in past wars have set off similar disasters to take out dams' power.

A major dam and hydro-electric power plant in Russian-occupied southern Ukraine was destroyed on Tuesday, prompting fear and mass evacuations as Ukraine accused Russian forces of committing an act of “ecocide.”

Videos posted to social media showed the destroyed dam and torrents of water flowing out into the river and flooding populated areas downstream, where people were forced to evacuate.

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As stunning as the images are, the attack of Nova Kakhovka is not a complete surprise. The dam had been described as a strategically important target since the beginning of the war, and the Ukrainian government warned in 2022 that destroying it would cause a "large-scale disaster."

Indeed, the attack is just the most recent example of military forces seeing the massive potential energy stored behind hydroelectric dams as an offensive weapon. Destroying these critical pieces of infrastructure can destroy cities and spread terror, as well as disrupt agriculture and industry, and cripple power generation.

Here are some of the most notable wartime dam attacks in history:

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Did Climate Change Cause The Fall Of The Ming Dynasty?

In the mid-17th century, the weather in China got colder. The frequency of droughts and floods increased while some regions were wiped out by tragic famines. And the once-unstoppable Ming dynasty began to lose power.

The accounts are chilling. In the summary of his course on modern Chinese history at the Collège de France, Pierre-Etienne Will examined journals held by various individuals, often part of the Chinese administration, during the final years of the Ming dynasty. These autobiographical writings were almost always kept secret, but they allow us to immerse ourselves in the everyday life of the first half of 17th-century China.

In the Jiangnan region, close to Shanghai and generally considered as a land of plenty, the 1640s did not bode well. The decade that had just ended was characterized by an abnormally cold and dry climate and poor harvests. The price of agricultural goods kept rising, pushing social tension to bursting points.

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Mao's Aqueduct: Biggest Water Project Ever Rises In China

One of Mao's most grandiose ideas — an aqueduct stretching 3,500 kilometers — is becoming reality decades after his death. The project promises relief for China's thirsty north, but has already displaced thousands of people in its path

JINAN — The Yellow River is nothing but a brown-grey mass of moving water, bordered by banks of rubbish, and is one of the most polluted rivers in China. It's a far cry from its former beauty.

The Chinese once called it "Mother River" and the "Cradle of Chinese Civilization." The Yellow River, or Huang He, crosses the entirety of the country, 5,464 kilometers long, from its springs in the highlands of Qinghai in the West to its delta at Jinan, on the Pacific coast. It provides water for nearly 150 million people and 15% of the agricultural fields of China.

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Jordan Pouille

The Heartbreaking Toil Of The Yellow River's Grim Reaper

A farmer from northwest China makes a living scouring the Yellow River to recover dead bodies, most of whom were poor migrants, often women and children. A modern Chinese tragedy.

LANZHOU — We've spent more than half an hour trekking in the sandy mountains of northwest China, whose summits have been curved by erosion. "Don't stop, we're almost there!" Every time we slow down just a bit, this man with a sunburned face tells us to keep going.

Wei Peng is 55 years old, with dirty hair and bushy eyebrows, and he's jumping from one rock to another without showing the slightest sign of breathlessness, despite smoking two packs of cigarettes a day. He only stops to wait for us. His jacket is threadbare, his pants stained, but his pride is intact.

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food / travel
Liu Hongqiao and He Linlin

Land Of A Thousand Artificial Lakes: Perils Of China's Boomtime Water Policy

On October 18, water started flowing along a 20 kilometer (12.4 mile) aqueduct from the Yellow River into a gigantic pit in Zhengzhou City. In two months this pit will turn into an artificial lake with a surface of 5.6 square kilometers (3.5 square miles).

It has taken two years of digging and has cost 1.66 billion RMB ($265 million) to make this hole in this stretch of Henan province in central China. Though its area is slightly smaller than the famously scenic West Lake in Hangzhou, its water storage capacity, at 26.8 million cubic meters (946.4 million cubic feet), is two and a half times greater than that of West Lake. The water will need to be changed four times a year, so it is estimated that nearly 90 million cubic meters (3.2 billion cubic feet) of water will need to be supplied yearly from the Yellow River. This represents 1/600th of the total annual flow of the river.

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Counting The Floating Dead Of The Yellow River

LANZHOU - The Yellow River has no lid, why don’t you jump in...!? For Chinese who live along the river, this old expression is used when an argument heats up.
But in the last few days, with reports by the Oriental Morning Post that hundreds of corpses are floating in the famous river, it all has taken on a different meaning.
According to the Chinese 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. “Between April and September this year, there were on average at least 20 corpses being salvaged each month,” a policeman of the Lanzhou Water Police Station told the paper. This is not counting the other corpses which are salvaged by the local public security, and by a few private workers who do the job to make money.
“In the summer when there’s flooding, there are more corpses. I have had the experience of finding more than 20 corpses in a day,” said Wei, one of the veterans river workers known to locals as the Yellow River Ghost Man.
In the past few years, an increasing number of corpses, about 200 to 300 more each year, has overwhelmed local sanitation authorities.
So who are these people floating downstream? A certain number are flood victims, but a study carried out in the 1990’s suggested that 85% are suicides, 10% are people dead from accidents of various types, and 5% are murder victims. Mostly they are between 16 and 45 years old at their death. Murder victims tend to be tied up, or sealed in a sack, or simply have their throats cut, according to the China Times.
The bodies are frequently discovered trapped in a thick raft of floating garbage upstream of a dam. If they pass through the dam they are dismembered by the turbines. The raft of garbage is a source of revenue for scavengers, but when they find a body which can be identified it’s a good payday. Relatives pay good money to recover the body of a loved one.
One scavenger, Wei Zhijun, says “When I find a corpse I tie it to a rock or a tree by the river. If in three weeks no one has identified it I let it back into the river.” Thirty percent of the bodies found are never identified according to Lanzhou City Water Station statistics.
The river water is a direct source of drinking water for many of the people living along the river, and the bodies are a serious form of pollution.
Even the Lanzhou City Water Station puts unidentified corpses back into the river. The local civil service departments bury around 60 unidentified bodies a year. The burial cost is increasing and suitable land is at a premium. What to do with the flood of corpses is becoming a real headache for the dam authorities, the water station, the civil service, and the public security organs.