Environmental degradation arising out of desertification, deforestation, erosion and climatic changes and poaching is seriously threatening the delicate ecosystem of the riparian areas of Yangtze river. It is China's longest river, flowing from four points located high on the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau at over 5,000 metres above sea level. The 5,980-km-long river covers an area of 1.8 million square km. Melting glaciers, shrinking river sources and shrivelling grasslands are evident signs of global warming according to Yang Xin, a photographer turned environmentalist.
When he visited the region first in 1986, yaks and Tibetan antelopes roamed the plateau in thousands. Today, their numbers have dwindled to tens. Yang has initiated a five-year programme, supported by the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the National Environmental Protection Bureau. They plan to set up monitoring stations at the four sources of the river to conduct anti-poaching patrols as well as to research and monitor changes on the plateau.