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Rivers And Life -

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(generated from captions) to China's future. 'The Yangtze River holds the key Flowing over 6,000km on the Tibetan Plateau from its source to its Shanghai Delta, in the world it's the most used waterway and one of the most deadly.' DRAMATIC MUSIC 'In the last century alone over 300,000 people. its floods have killed

with an engineering project Now man has struck back the river's destructive forces designed to corral human control. and bring it firmly under it's visible from space. The Three Gorges Dam is so large enough electricity Designed to produce of China's total needs, to power a tenth of inland mega cities the dam feeds the frenzied expansion such as Chongqing, on the planet. the fastest-growing urban centre has come at a huge cost. But this progress

Upstream of the dam

has been drastically altered the Three Gorges region

forced to flee their homes. and some 2 million people at the mouth of the river, Downstream the coastline at an alarming rate, the impact of the dam is eroding threatening the very foundations Shanghai's booming economy is built. upon which is risking environment disaster. This massive push for growth faces a critical new challenge.' China's greatest river GENTLE ELECTRONIC MUSIC an economic growth 'China is witnessing the world has never seen. the pace of which Old and young, rich and poor, in the name of progress. its people have endured much from the country's new wealth. Many have benefitted Others have been left behind, to buy in to the dream. less willing or less able But relentlessly, the dream goes on, guiding idea - driven by the Communist Party's for the greater good. personal sacrifice who are made to conform It's not only the people to this vision of the future. So, too, is the landscape.

is the story of modern China. The story of the Yangtze River of the government's quest It's the starkest example in its pursuit of progress. to control nature

is not a river to be toyed with. But the Yangtze this country. It has the power to make and to break It always has. the Yangtze has fertilised the crop For generations, the world's largest population. which feeds China's rice fields flourish which the river provides. on the nutrients from mountain to sea For on its course the surrounding landscape, the Yangtze feeds off mineral-rich sediment in its waters. collecting vast amounts of the Yangtze floods, When it reaches the flat lands across the land. distributing its fertile silt of the Yangtze River basin Today, the flood plains of all China's grain and cotton. produce nearly half it also takes away.' But while the river gives, THUNDER 'The annual flooding of the Yangtze to those who live near it. has often posed a deadly threat Most recently, in 1998, surged downriver, a flood crest 53m high the size of New Zealand submerging an area and destroying 5 million homes. Hu Qen Xian is a farmer of the Yangtze's fury.' whose house lay directly in the path was the first to be flooded. TRANSLATOR: In 1998, our village all the way down there From the beginning of the village and covered all this land. the water flowed through the village

all the buildings were submerged. We had to travel by boat and people to flee for their lives 'As the water forced 14 million a state of emergency.' the government declared and the police came to our rescue. TRANSLATOR: The solders

They rescued our families. life buoys to get most people out. They used helicopters, boats and topped $30 billion, 'The total cost of the 1998 flood something drastic had to be done bolstering the belief that to protect the people from floods. This is how the government proposes of the Yangtze flooding - to solve the problem of the Three Gorges Dam. with the barrier Standing 185m tall and over 2km wide, is China's largest building project this gargantuan structure since the Great Wall.

of construction, Now, in its final stages a 5-trillion gallon reservoir the dam will create and 650 kilometres long hundreds of metres deep caused such devastation in the past. holding back the waters which have goes back a long way...' The idea for the dam EXPLOSION the communist leader Mao Zedong 'In the 1950s, was a wholehearted supporter hydro-electric dam in the world. of building the largest of Wu Gorge He talked of surprising the goddess between the deep canyons. by creating a huge, man-made lake after Mao's death, But it wasn't until 1994, got official approval that the project and the People's Republic of China to begin. ordered the damming of the Yangtze

It was to be one of the most ambitious engineering projects in history. and controversial round the clock 20,000 people worked tirelessly its engineering deadlines. in a race to meet $25 billion. So far, the costs have topped paid the ultimate price. But many workers in the building of the dam. Over a thousand have died in the project since the beginning Zhang Shuguang has been involved at the site today. and is chief engineer Government experts like Shuguang to control the river's flow, claim that the dam allows them reducing downstream flooding hundreds of thousands of lives. and potentially saving (SPEAKS LOCAL LANGUAGE) TRANSLATOR: By building this dam flooding from once every 10 years we reduced the likelihood of to once every 100 years. If the 1998 flooding reoccurs this dam will make a huge impact. will not be affected. The residents below WATER GUSHES will be able to control 'Few dispute that the dam the flow of the river. be creating a threat of flooding But it might, at the same time, anything that's gone before. worse than

Because the Three Gorges region is an earthquake zone and this concrete mega structure is built on a seismic fault line. The danger of trapping such a vast reservoir in a seismically active region has been a cause of major concern. And though the government claims the risks are small, the dam was built with these dangers in mind.' (MAN SPEAKS LOCAL LANGUAGE) TRANSLATOR: In this area earthquakes are rare. An earthquake of more than 6 on the Richter scale would only happen once every 10,000 years. But this dam is designed to cope with an earthquake as strong as Level 7.

'But if the science is wrong and an earthquake makes the dam fail

the effect on the 75 million people living downstream would be catastrophic. What's more, some experts claim that the dam might actually cause an earthquake. The sheer weight of the reservoir

could stress the earth's crust to danger levels. Such events have been recorded even in areas with no previous history of tremors.

But the scientists are calculating that the risk of earthquake is small compared to the benefit the dam offers. And, so far, the scientists seem to be right. Since the dam was built the rains have come and gone. And though there's been some localised flooding downstream the waters have been contained.

Loss of life has been at a minimum. But saving lives is just one of the reasons this dam was built. Just as important is that it's crucial to China's industrial ambitions.' FUTURISTIC MUSIC 'The Three Gorges Dam is designed to tame the Yangtze, transforming it from wild river

to one of the most navigable and profitable waterways in the world. Before the dam was built, the Yangtze's current was so strong that large river traffic had trouble getting upstream. The dam has changed that, controlling and diluting the flow of the current in its immense reservoir and enabling heavy cargo ships to navigate deep into China's heartland. The huge physical barrier which the dam poses to traffic is countered by the most complex system of lochs ever built. For ships travelling through these locks it's a five-stage, four-hour ride through the cement corridors from one level of the river to the other. The system allows 10,000-tonne cargo ships to travel 2,000km in both directions along the river's course. River traffic on the Yangtze is set to increase from 10 million to 50 million tonnes per year. This water superhighway is revitalising China's inland provinces where gigantic cities with populations of tens of millions are taking shape. The dam not only links these cities to the outside world, it quite literally powers their growth. By harnessing the river current the dam creates prodigious amounts of electricity,

crucial to a booming economy. This is the largest hydro-electric power plant ever built. When it's at full capacity the dam's turbines will create as much energy as 18 nuclear power plants. Supporters of the dam claim its clean electricity is crucial

in cutting carbon pollution and reducing China's dependency on fossil fuels. But many people are unconvinced. From the outset, the Three Gorges project has caused mass protest the like of which has never been witnessed in communist China. To understand what lies at the heart of the protesters' fears we must travel upstream into an ancient landscape that has been irrevocably changed to find millions of people whose homes and history have been destroyed by the dam. The Three Gorges region has long been renowned for its spectacular landscape.

Before the dam, this was characterised by 100m canyons through which the Yangtze River cut its path. Today, much of the most dramatic landscape has disappeared beneath the rising waters of the dam's 650km-long reservoir. Changed, too, are the lives of the people. 120km upstream of the dam, the residents of Wushan town have first-hand experience of the huge social upheaval it has caused. When the dam first became operational in 2004 water levels in this region rose by 50m, submerging practically all of old Wushan. It's a drastic change which the Chinese authorities are keen to justify. TRANSLATOR: Wushan is a new migrant city. Most of the old city is now underwater. It's become a spectacular view. 'Though he lived in the old city,

Chen Chi Ying was one of the government officials charged with coordinating the evacuation of its residents to the new city further uphill.' INTERPRETER: This migration took four stages to complete, so this new city was not completed within just one or two years. We had to firstly set a small area to use as a testing point and then move people gradually. By now, we have around 30,000-to-40,000 migrants

living in this new city. 'Today, the reinvention of Wushan continues, as the last remnants of the old town are destroyed to make way for the new.

The government claims that this change is good, bringing Wushan into the 21st century. Many locals disagree. Some still cling to their old way of life, tending their shrinking farmland among the ever-encroaching high-rise blocks.

But in a country where public protest against the dam

has been forcibly suppressed, these people's voices will be drowned out too.' INTERPRETER: This empty field behind will also be devoured as part of the new city. It will be used up very quickly.

This will be a community plaza in the future. 'These farmers' homes stand directly in the path of progress, and in the end they'll have no choice but to move. For, in China, all land is owned by the state. Citizens lease their properties from the government on a long-term agreement.

But the authorities can renege on the deal at any time and, if they wish, submerge entire cities for the sake of creating a new China. So far, the rising waters have engulfed a staggering 13 cities, 140 towns and over 1,300 villages. Up to two million people have had their homes repossessed in the name of progress. One in five have been moved to different provinces where dialect, climate, even diet are different. Many more have watched their livelihoods disappear along with their homes. Qan Sia Lan owns a charter boat service operating from Wushan docks. Today, she ferries the tourists who flock to see what's left of the beautiful gorges along the Yangtze and its tributaries. A few years ago, however, Sia Lan would have been a living part of the landscape which is now underwater. INTERPRETER: Before we opened this tourist boat company we owned a family inn in Shendi Chong and we were farming. 'When the Three Gorges reservoir began to fill Sia Lan's farmhouse was among the first buildings to be submerged. As the waters rose around her

she was relocated to a new home up on the hill. It was to be the first of many moves to avoid the rising tides.' INTERPRETER: We've moved three times, haven't we? Once in 1997, when the river was cut off, and once in 2003 and then once more in 2005. We had to move everyone and everything. It involved a lot of cost and effort. (SPEAKS LOCAL LANGUAGE) 'Despite her personal trials, the government sees Sia Lan as a success story. She's made the most of the opportunities and financial compensation offered by the authorities to create a new life for herself. Not everyone has adapted so well... Many older people are unable or unwilling to take advantage of the retraining which is available and a lifetime working the land leaves them ill-equipped to deal with the confines of urban living. Even those who have bought in to China's vision of the future find it difficult to forget the past.' INTERPRETER: I do miss my old home a little. I can't forget the time when I used to farm and run the family inn. The memories of serving guests... Those days were really relaxing. GENTLE PIPES 'It's not only recent history which has been wiped away by the rising waters. So, too, has the ancient past. The Yangtze River basin is the traditional home of the great dynasties and kingdoms of old Asia. The natural barrier created by the river made it an important political boundary and the scene of many historic battles.

The Three Gorges region is particularly rich in dynastic architecture. Many emperors built great temples on the steep river banks. When the water levels began to rise the Chinese government funded a $125 million project to save the most important sites from being submerged. In what's been described as the biggest historical salvage operation ever entire buildings were meticulously catalogued and moved piece-by-piece to higher ground.

But many of the most important relics could not be saved because they lay embedded in the very landscape which was to be submerged. Before the building of the dam the government commissioned a major archeological survey of this area. Peji An was chief coordinator of the project in the Wushan region. Much of his research focused on the Ba people - an ancient civilisation that lived on the steep slopes of the Yangtze and its tributaries some 2,000 years ago. The most impressive evidence of ancient Ba culture is to be seen in the cliffs high above the river. INTERPRETER: We are now on the Daying River. We can see a coffin set high in the cliff up there. 'How the Ba people managed to lay their dead in their final resting place

is a mystery. Exactly why they did so is also unknown.' INTERPRETER: There are two explanations. The first is that the Ba's descendants wanted to honour their ancestors and so buried their bodies in a high place.

The second explanation is that they did it to prevent vandalism. 'The Ba people couldn't have possibly imagined that, ultimately, it wouldn't be thieves who would steal their ancestors remains, but the river itself. When the waters began to rise in 1998 archeologists were just beginning to develop a better understanding of the cultural wealth of Ba civilisation.

But their discoveries came too late to stop the flooding. While some coffins have been rescued and removed to museums many more have simply been submerged. In total, over a thousand archeological sites have been lost as the waters have risen. But the unique heritage of this region has never been more crucial to its survival. As the rich farmlands on the lower river banks have disappeared underwater so too have people's livelihoods. The government sees tourism as providing a replacement income and has poured money into enticing visitors to the Three Gorges region, using its history as a unique selling point.' WATER SLOSHES 'One of the most popular tours is a trip upriver traditional-style.' MEN CALL TO EACH OTHER Before the Three Gorges reservoir was created parts of the Yangtze and its tributaries ran too shallow for heavy cargo to sail the river's length. Big ships had to be dragged upstream by hand. Men known as trackers were employed to pull barges along using nothing but human effort and heavy rope. Today, tourists pay for this picture-postcard experience of life on the old Yangtze. Upstream, however,

a new China is emerging to replace the old, a China characterised by mega cities and mega progress.

This country is urbanising faster than anywhere in history and the Yangtze is at the heart of this massive social change. Some people are embracing the changes. Others are struggling to keep pace. As is the river itself...' TRADITIONAL CHINESE MUSIC '650km upstream of the dam at the tip of the Three Gorges reservoir is the mountain city of Chongqing, symbol of China's brave, new world. In the last ten years, the area covered by the city has more than doubled. So, too, has the population. Now the municipality of Chongqing

is home to a staggering 30 million people...

..and rising. This is the fastest-growing urban centre on the planet.

To keep pace, the city map needs to be redrawn every three months. Chongqing is at the forefront of what the government calls the great western development. The Three Gorges project is just one part of this multi-billion dollar strategy to revitalise China's heartland. As well as investing in roads, bridges and dams, the government must create some 24 million new jobs every year just to keep the country's ever-increasing population in work. In a region where so much has been sacrificed to make way for progress a booming economy makes up for distress and upheaval. One of those at the cutting edge of the government's development plans is Yin Mingshan. He's the founder of the Lifan sedan factory, employing 9,000 workers

with an annual turnover of more than $1 billion. Imprisoned in the 1970s for being an advocate of capitalism, today Mingshan is 24th on China's rich list. He's held up as a shining example of the new entrepreneurial spirit

which the government now wants to encourage.' INTERPRETER: We are able to produce motorbikes and cars here. These Lifan products are sold to around 128 countries worldwide.

You can buy Lifan motorbikes even in the UK. 'The Three Gorges Dam has been the cornerstone of Yin Mingshan's success. It provides the route by which his factory's products can reach the international market. Before the dam was built large river traffic could only reach Chongqing in the rainy season when melting ice and monsoons meant the Yangtze ran deep and fast through the city. But the building of the dam and its huge system of lochs allows ships to travel to and from Chongqing all year round.'

INTERPRETER: Of course, the main benefit which the Yangtze River provides is convenient shipping. The cost of shipping is very, very cheap. 'What's more, before the building of the dam, the electricity supplied to Chongqing was extremely unreliable. Yin Mingshan had to factor power rationing into his business plan.' INTERPRETER: The 'Stop Three, Ensure Four' campaign

meant that every week there would be three days without electricity to ensure four days with it. But there are no power cuts now because of the Three Gorges power station. MOODY ELECTRONIC MUSIC 'Today, the hydropower produced by the dam provides the whole city with cheap, reliable electricity to feed its growth. This commercial wealth attracts no fewer than half a million new citizens to Chongqing every year. They come in search of a better life... ..though it's not always easy to find. Wedged between the city's bustling port and commercial centre is the Qiansimen district where the 'bang bang' men live and work.' FOGHORN SOUNDS 'This 100,000-strong crew of porters literally bear the city's weight on their shoulders. Arriving in droves from rural areas with no skills and little education,

they acquire the cheapest of tools - a bamboo pole and some rope - which they use to earn a living around the city port. It's this bamboo pole, called 'bang bang' in Chinese, which earns the porters their name. Their services are hired by everyone from businessmen to tourists to move all kinds of goods between ships and dry land. Originally from a countryside village, Hu Shen moved to Chongqing two years ago and has been working as a bang bang man every since.' INTERPRETER: Because Chongqing is located high on a mountainside with bumpy roads bang bang is used to help people carry things.

Some people have a lot of luggage which they can not manage to carry themselves. This is why bang bang exists. 'Though he carries more than his own weight in goods, Shen earns little more than $7 a day. After sending a few dollars home to his parents, he supports his wife and two children on what's left. Living in one of the poorest areas of the city, Shen shares his rented flat with his sister and her family

to keep living costs low.' INTERPRETER: This is my home. This is the bathroom... ..and this the kitchen. 'Four adults and four children are crammed into this tiny living space. Yet even this is an improvement on Shen's previous standard of living in the countryside. He sees it as the first step on the road to a new future for his family.' INTERPRETER: I travelled over 200km to Chongqing. In the beginning I did it to survive. My previous living conditions were very harsh. Now we are here for our children, to provide them with better living conditions and education. 'The bang bang men are living testament to a common belief that the future of China belongs to those who seize opportunity. But as they strive with every step to improve their lives few realise that the economic boom which provides their opportunity is poisoning the river upon which they depend.

Chongqing is just one of 200 cities that get their water supply from the Yangtze.

These massive urban areas produce vast amounts of domestic and industrial waste, 25 billion tonnes of which is dumped straight into the river every year. Pollution levels on the Yangtze have reached an all-time high. The situation has been made worse by the Three Gorges Dam. The economic growth helped by the dam has dramatically increased the amount of pollution created by cities like Chongqing. Now, the authorities struggle to keep pace with the development that threatens to choke this river and its people. Liu Dangming is an environmental scientist who campaigns to protect the Yangtze from the effects of pollution.' INTERPRETER: The Yangtze River area is an industrial development zone. The most common sources of water pollution are firstly effluent from factories, second is domestic sewage, third is agricultural pollution,

fourth is shipping waste, fifth is just ordinary rubbish. 'Few people are brave enough to report the environmental crises faced by the river. In the past, has received death threats for speaking out. But on the Yangtze the evidence speaks for itself as this river absorbs more than 40% of all China's waste. And it's not just the main waterway that's suffering. Over a third of the Yangtze's major tributaries are also seriously polluted. The problem is clearly evident in the suburbs of Chongqing.' INTERPRETER: This stream is called Clearwater Stream. But now you can see it's polluted.

Approximately 60,000 to 80,000 tonnes of sewage enters this stream every day. This stream flows into the Jialing River which then flows into the Yangtze 15km downstream. 'In the past, people assumed the Yangtze was too big to poison as any toxins were flushed away by the 900 billion tonnes of water that flowed through the river every year. But the reservoir created by the Three Gorges Dam has altered that current. While the speed of the water on the river's surface has increased the velocity of the flow beneath has fallen to practically zero. The river can no longer carry waste away from the city and it now accumulates in a stagnant reservoir. A polluted Yangtze spells disaster for the local population.

This river provides drinking water to 400 million people, that's 1 in every 15 on the planet. The polluted water has been blamed for unusually high rates of cancer and birth defects among people who live near the Yangtze. Though the government insists Yangtze water is safe to drink Liu Dangming still chooses to hike four hours every week to draw his own supply from a mountain spring.' INTERPRETER: This water is very natural. It comes from the rain and is filtered through the forest. It's spring water. It's very good. 'But spring water is a luxury the poorest urban masses of China simply cannot afford. Long hours and hard labour leave no time for water gathering. Neither do the people know how much the waterway they live along has been damaged.

This is true for every kilometre of the river's course.' FOGHORN SOUNDS 'As it leaves Chongqing, forging its way downstream towards the East China Sea, it becomes ever more apparent that the Yangtze is overused

and under threat. The threat is so severe that it's causing the river to fail in it's age-old function of feeding the people. It's even causing the river to eat away at the shoreline, potentially destroying the very cities it has helped create. One third of the way along its seaward journey from Chongqing, the Yangtze comes up against the gigantic physical barrier of the Three Gorges Dam. The effect of the water flow meeting this structure is like a speeding car hitting a concrete wall. The river and all that's carried along in its waters are stopped dead in their tracks. The dam is a feat of engineering of which the Chinese government is very proud. Tourists are welcome to the site

to marvel at what's nicknamed 'China's new Great Wall'. During the official tour visitors are told the success story of the building of the dam. But deep inside this structure a different story is emerging, revealing a massive flaw in the Three Gorges plan... For while the water can still continue downstream through the dam the same can not be said about the life-giving silt carried in the river's flow. The Yangtze is one of the most sediment-rich rivers in the world. It is silt which gives the river its murky brown colour. And, deposited by the current, it has shaped this landscape for thousands of years. Special silt valves are built into the dam wall

to allow the sediment to flush through. But the sheer amount of silt presents a huge technical challenge. The system struggles to cope as an average of 140 million tonnes of silt are trapped behind the dam every year. At this rate,

sediment build-up in the bottom of the reservoir will raise the water levels upstream, severely increasing the threat of flooding in Chongqing.' CAR HORN BEEPS 'There is even talk of, yet again, forcibly resettling a million people from this area to higher ground, out of harm's way. But it's at the end of the river's course that the most dramatic ill effects of the trapped silt become apparent. 1,000km downstream of the dam the city of Shanghai sits at the mouth of the Yangtze Delta.

A glittering testament to China's economic growth, this bustling port is built quite literally on the wealth of the river. Over two thirds of the city's foundations are built on silt deposited here by the Yangtze over thousands of years. Yang Shi-Lun is a geologist who leads a research project on silt levels in the Yangtze River. Much of his research is focused on the island of Chongming. Lying north of Shanghai city centre

and right in the middle of the Yangtze River channel, this entire island owes its existence to river silt.' INTERPRETER: 50 years ago this place was covered by water. There were no plants growing here. The reason it exists now is because of silt from the Yangtze River. Once the silt piled up to a certain height plants began to grow. BIRDS SQUAWK 'Today the wetlands of Chongming are a protected conservation area. Incredibly rich in wildlife, they provide a crucial stop-off point for migratory birds travelling from the southern to the northern hemisphere. They are also a vital breeding ground for many aquatic animals. But only a fraction of the Yangtze silt wetlands are given over to nature. On Shanghai's mainland urban development has taken over. As China's economic capital Shanghai is growing fast. It's delta is one of the most densely populated regions on earth. Boasting some of the most expensive real estate in the world, this city already has nearly twice as many high-rises as New York and continues to build them at an extraordinary rate.

The government hopes that the river will continue to replenish the coastline, providing the new land needed for expansion. But there's a flaw in the plan. There isn't enough silt for the job.'

INTERPRETER: Since the Three Gorges Dam was built our research shows that between 2003 and 2006 some 140 million tonnes of silt was trapped in the reservoir every year. That's about 60% of all the silt in the water. 'Satellite readings show the tidal wetlands are in danger of disappearing because of sediment trapped in the Three Gorges Dam.

Rather than bulking up the valuable shoreline the Yangtze is now eating away at what's already there. Up to 4km2 of coastline has already disappeared due to coastal erosion. Protecting what's left and planning for the future will be a costly business.' INTERPRETER: Shanghai's plans of reclaiming more land will be very difficult to achieve. We probably need to revise this plan and introduce new methods to protect the silt. For example, building a breakwater embankment. It will be more expensive because we must build it stronger and higher than before. 'It's not only Shanghai's land mass which is disappearing. So, too, is it's river wildlife. Shanghai fish market is a chaotic testament to the quantity and variety of fish life that the Yangtze River supports. 80% of all China's freshwater fish are caught at the river delta here in Shanghai. The industry is worth $700 million a year.' HUBBUB 'But in recent years there's been a dramatic downturn in profits. Between 2005 and 2006 fishing yields at the mouth of the Yangtze fell by nearly a half. The vast majority of the fish that are caught today are less than 1kg in weight. While overfishing has undoubtedly contributed to the decline of fish stocks, so, too, has the building of the Three Gorges Dam.

Xu Yong Ping is a scientist at Shanghai's Water Research Centre. He believes that the loss of silt plays a huge role in the decline of fish.' INTERPRETER: The speed at which the wetlands are being formed has slowed. And this has caused the wetlands at the Yangtze Delta to shrink. The loss of these wetlands has a direct influence on fish because the wetlands are an important breeding ground and provide the habitat for young fish to grow. 'The reduction in sediment is also affecting the river's delicate eco-system. It is the silt which feeds the microscopic plankton that forms a vital part of the food chain at the Yangtze Delta. Experiments conducted at the Water Research Centre show the decrease of silt is affecting the amount and variety of plankton growing in the waters. As certain types of fish-friendly plankton struggle to survive damaging species take over, causing blooms of algae which are toxic to fish. But perhaps the greatest threat of all to the river's health is the aggressive commercial development which is swamping its waters. The new loch system at the Three Gorges Dam has improved the navigability of the Yangtze. As a result, the amount of river traffic has dramatically increased. Shanghai is now the world's busiest port, transporting over 443 million tonnes of cargo annually. But the incredible increase in volume of ships spells disaster for wildlife. Any creature trying to cross these crowded waters would be like a rabbit crossing a 12-lane highway. The pollution which is a by-product of the shipping industry also poses a deadly threat.'

INTERPRETER: The direct effects are noise, waste pollution and traffic collisions, which cause toxic waste to be discharged. Those are the direct effects. The indirect effects arise from maintaining the river's shipping route which has to be dredged.

To maintain the Yangtze's deep river pathway a channel 80km-to-90km long, 300m wide and 10m deep has to be dug. This is detrimental to the fishes habitat. 'The combined effects of silt loss and industrial development have had such a dramatic impact that the government has been forced to impose a seasonal fishing ban on parts of the river. Even when they are allowed to cast their nets

fishermen who used to make a handsome living often return to shore with a meagre harvest.

Many native species which were once a common catch are in danger of becoming museum specimens. One fish on the brink of disappearing is China's iconic river sturgeon.

Once the staple diet of locals, these massive fish can grow up to 4m in length and weigh over 450kg.'

INTERPRETER: Recent human development and changes to the environment have seriously affected these fish. Their numbers have declined rapidly and they are close to dying out. 'To prevent the river sturgeon from disappearing completely

the Chinese government has funded a major conservation project. Parts of the wetlands have been made designated breeding grounds and tens of thousands of sturgeon fry are released into the water to help replenish dwindling numbers. Local fishermen are now obliged to return any sturgeon caught back to the water. But these efforts may be too little, too late. Experts fear that the river sturgeon is destined

to suffer the same fate as the baiji dolphin - an aquatic species unique to the Yangtze which was declared functionally extinct in December, 2006. The baiji's disappearance

are indicative of the failing health of their habitat. At Shanghai, it's clear that the cumulative effects of human intervention along the river's course have made the Yangtze sick. As it approaches the end of its long journey through the land the river reaches a critical turning point. The Three Gorges Dam has caused change and progress along every kilometre of the Yangtze's route. But it has also spawned a rate of development which the river cannot physically sustain. As the trend continues 70% of these waters could be classed 'unusable' within five years. If the Yangtze is ever to recover drastic change is needed. But now the path to progress has been set. The river and the people who depend on it are trapped in a poisonous cycle of growth. It was initially predicted that the Three Gorges power station would produce enough electricity to meet a tenth of China's needs. But the pace of development has exceeded all expectation and demand already outstrips supply. To solve the problem, yet more dams are planned for the Yangtze. The wealth and the future of China continue to depend on this incredible river. But what that future holds for the river and it's people remains to be seen...' Closed Captions by CSI