Sept. 26, 2023

Yellow River Decade (8) Fairy tale of Kang Bashi

Reported by:  Lina Wang, Yongchen Wang

August 19, 2010, thirty some experts, volunteers and journalists gathered for Decade Yellow River Project went to the Erdos, where was called the Orient Dubai. They started off from the ancient Yulin, passed by Lateqi, Baotou and reached Wulateqi.

On the road to from Yulin to Erdos

On the road from loess plateau to Inner Mongol Plateau

From Yulin to the Ordos, you can see a lot of rolling sand dunes in the Mu Us Desert; it was originated from the Loess Plateau to Mongolia. You Liansuo, a geographer of Chinese Academy of Sciences, said that it was hard to grow trees as the rainfall was less than 400 mm from here to north, so we could only see some herbaceous shrubs. The dunes here were relatively steady and hard to move because it was covered by vegetation.
We could see the beautiful landscape of "wind-swept pastures of cows and sheep," when we came to Ordos in 1991, however, desertification had becoming serious due to the overgrazing, economic development, climate change and the other reasons, Mr. Zhao Lianshi in the Scientists Adventure Association had paid sustained attention in Ordos in recently years, he has a wealth of experience in field of investigations, so he was worked as a deputy leader and driver. Due to the recent continues travel, he lost his voice temporarily. Although he spoke disjointly, he still insisted to finish his work and told others what happened here.

The dumb voice needs a “sound pickup”


On the road, we saw a sign that says Hongjiannao, Nao, it was the synonymous of the sea, and was the lake in the meaning of the Mongolian. ZHAO Lianshi told us disappointedly that there was a rare gull; scientists have searched the world to find its breeding ground many years, and finally found it in the Hongjiannao, so they named it as the relict gull, which means the final A forgotten seagulls. However, the evaporation was more than precipitation in the semi-arid areas, and coupled with recent large-scale exploitation of groundwater, Hongjiannao shrinking and eventually disappeared without trace, so we did not know whether the Relict Gull breeding in hopes of finding other habitat, or dying out without comfortable habitat. In the slow moving vehicle, we could only look through the windows to imagine the past lush paradise for birds.

Today’s Hongjiannao

The blade of wind energy

In the Desert grassland of Inner Mongolia, many Hai Zi that we didn’t know the name had gone, maybe the climate change was the main reason, but human beings have an inescapable responsibility. City was like a large water pump, the water be pumped out of the sand, resulting in the falling of the undergraound water level, leading to the disappearance of Hai Zi. The Sun city of Kang Baishi was a giant water pump, not only would it pump groundwater, but also drawing water from Hai Zi, it was said that it would draw water from Yellow River in the future.

Yellow River flow through Inner Mongolia

The Highway be built in the sands

Kang Bashi was located in the central and southern of Ordos, and Ordos Plateau was situated in the hinterland, having a distance of 25 km from Dongsheng, 3 km from A town,and Dongsheng District, the A town of Yijinhuoluo County together constitute the core area of Ordos, was the new political and cultural,financial,research education center and the base for equipment manufacturing and the car manufacturing in Erdos.

Water experts Wang Jian said that Ordos was famous for its "Sheep Coal earth and gas", sheep was the goat, coal was the coal, earth was the rare earths, and the gas means the natural gas. With the help of the development of western, Ordos was maintained up to 34%of the GDP growth rate, exceeded Beijing and  Shanghai, ranking first in China as its rich energy resources. The rapid accumulation of wealth, making the Ordos opening its mouth and planning for a long-term, wanting to become the strategic energy base in the future. In order to attract investors, it planned  to construct Kang Bashi Sun City, which can accommodate 150 million people. The planning itself cost 41 million Yuan.

Driving to Kang Bashi Sun City


Wang Jian said that where there is water, where there is life. The construction of the city needs a strong support of water resources, whether should we build such a huge city in an arid and semi-arid place, it is a question to think thouroly.
Actually we didn’t plan to stay in the Kang Bashi, but when we passed by it, immediately decided to take a look of the city. The design of this great city pool the wisdom of the whole world.

In the front of the government buildings of Kang Bashi

Government buildings

Opera house

Museum in the shape of cow dung

Offices inside the government building


Press center

We saw the huge government building, the Museum which looks like cow dung, Grand Theatre which in the shape of yurts, the library which in the shape of three books, and various sculptures reflecting the Mongolian culture. Standing on the top floor of the government building, you can overlook the scene of Kangbashi. Next to the government building, there are dense residential area and villas, as well as those being cultivated trees. The sportsground is made of the world's most advanced materials. One of the Kangbashi's visions is to create eco-city, so it brings in beautiful ornamental flowers and trees around the world to dress up a green city.

Building materials which was used to build the road are just like Buckingham Palace’s

Composition from America artists

A fountain which is 600 m long, and can reach 28 m high

If no one tells us the story behind Kangbashi, we will be proud of such a city, because it is a symbol of a powerful country and wealthy people. But after you know the story behind Kangbashi, then look at the city again, you will feel awkward whatever the way you look it.

This city builds in this kind of ground feature

The sand outside the window

Under construction

The sand behind BMW

Kangbashi is a city requires a lot of water. Coal, oil, rare earth mining, chemical production, more than 100 million people live, urban greening, all need lots of water. However, the city just built in the region which serious lack of available water resources. The land desertification here, made ecological environment extremely fragile, standing at the Kangbashi government building you can still see the sand. You Yuanlian said that, the sand has good permeability, so in the surface areas of desertification, in fact, relatively speaking, groundwater is still relatively abundant. But this does not mean we can uncontrolled exploit the groundwater, because on the one hand, here has little rainfall to recharge groundwater; on the other hand, lower the groundwater level will exacerbate desertification, will result in the disappearance of the river. If you do not think of other way, only groundwater and surface water, can not sustain the future development of the city at all.

Use groundwater to water lawn

Trees are watered by money

Here used to suffer severe water shortages

In Dalate County, we met a local who watering trees on our way. We learned from him, water for living is 12 dollars per ton, water tanks of the truck which watering trees, each box has 12 tons of water, watering 60 trees per vehicle. It need pull 8 times per day. The water is collected from the underground. This spring, they fill the water needs of 12 minutes per car; this summer filling a car would be 16 minutes of water. The level of groundwater can drop fast.


The only river in the Sun City

Gold-plated sculpture near the river

The sheep in Kangbashi

The Ulan Moron River which flow next to this city has been drying up and only a short part of it has water. When Zhao Lianshi and Wangjian came here in July, even in the government building the best quality toilets were out of falsh water .
   Mr. Zhao tells us that the leadership in the local government doesn’t lack basic scientific knowledge, so they apply to the State Department for driving water from the Yellow River now. In exchange, the governments will undertake tast that manage the t Sediment of the top ten holes in upstream region in Dallas (10 tributary near the Yellow River).
   On August 15 the report of our Ten Years in the Yellow River mentioned, in order to ensure the Yellow River sediment transport, it must guarantee a certain water flow. According to calculations, 20 billion cubic meters of water per year is needed to ensure the smooth transportation of silt into the sea. Average annual runoff volume of Yellow River is 58 billion cubic meters, beside the other 30 billion cubic meters of water volume, there are 20 billion to be reserved for the transport of sediment and other ecological water. That Yellow River water will run out, and that’s not to mention some years has not so much water. The local government of Erdos wants to control sediment problems, by reducing the amount of water used for sediment transport, so that the water which saved can be transferred to Kangbashi.
   Yellow River management has been a major headache problem for China. So some local governments have offered to undertake these tasks, and our country encourages this action. However, considering the feasibility of local government and the ecological and social problems that the called of the Yellow River would bring, the request of Kangbashi government hasn’t been promised. If our country agreed to this request, what will happen in the future?

Large thermal power plant and water pipe

The road here is so

In the case that the GDP grows at a rate of 34 percent, can the local government control their own consumption of water consciously? Can they supervise the enterprises’ consumption of water effectively? If they can’t, the sediment problems of the middle and lower reaches can’t be solved and will become worse. What’s more, how much water does Yellow River have to be used by human beings in this way? Will the down stream area face a new no flow again? In addition, after the city’s development by the usage of water resource, who will supervise the pollution of environment and the destruction of the way of life?

Modern city irrigated by groundwater

When back to the bus, everyone waned to say something about the development of Kangbashi. Environmentalism is never against development, but unreasonable development. The growth at a rate of 34 percent is not glory but a danger signal. Wangjian says, can the city that develops too fast guarantee developing sustainably? Kangbashi is rich in mineral resources, in order of the country and city’s development, it’s impossible to avoid developing, but it should have a limitation. A city depending on groundwater should exert its own character instead of emphasizing the scale. They should try their best to lessen the unnecessary consumption of water. For example, the fountain in the public square of the Kangbashi government, which can reach 28 meters, is equal to a ten-story building。They bring in plants that are not used to live there, so they need to irrigate them by a lot of water. Are they necessary? In order of artistic, can we ignore the reality of resources?

The chief administrative secretary of Green Earth Volunteers Ni Yijing said yesterday, I have gone to so many cities, it’s seldom to find a city’s character. At least Kangbashi does very well in this point. We can see the sculpture showing the Mongolia culture everywhere in the city, and the street lamps have a shape of bow and arrow. In front of the city government, there are the bronzes of Genghis Khan’s going out for a battle, his mother, his brother, and his birth, and maybe they are just symbols.

The bronze of Genghis Khan

The position of Ordos’ Kangbashi is a good pasture before, but it turns bad because of the repair of roads, exceeding graze, the change of climate, and fearful desertification. In front of the government building, we see a middle-aged man playing with his daughter beside the fountain. He said his grandfather and father are herdsmen, but the quality of rangeland became bad, so he worked outside. Now he does logistics work in the Public Security Bureau.

This extravagant city consumes a lot of water, as a result, the groundwater level drops. It probably brings the degeneration of rangeland with a distance of hundreds of kilometers from here. At that time, how can people in the prairie make a living? When people who have gone to prairie or like prairie know that the prairie have become a big city today, and those who live in this city, will they keep thinking about the herdsman,  the cows and sheep? When they walk in Kangbashi and see these symbols of Mongolia culture, will they miss the ancestors on the back of horses?

The bronze of Genghis Khan’s mother

Leaving Kangbashi, we headed to Dalad Banner. Near to Yellow River, it’s ho-t'ao plain. As the saying goes, The Yellow River has drought and flood, but the bend of it makes it boom. It’s Yellow River that gestates the fertile soil in the arid-semiarid region. It’s everglade park at first, but now there is only Ulansuhai Nur natural reserve areas which keep relatively intact marsh. Field irrigation needs priming Yellow River, the consumption of water here runs afoul of its upper and lower reaches areas. Later the nation allocates it unitedly, and with the performing of irrigation and water saving measures, the condition has been relieved. Zhao Lianshi said, the very severe problem here are coal mining and the unordered construction of thermal power plant. There are many power plants along the Yellow River from Dalad Banner to Wuhai. Coal mining’s destruction to ecosystem, the exhaust gas, liquid waste, off scum produced by thermal power, are all the hidden troubles of Yellow River and the plain gestated by Yellow River.

In Baotou, we go along Yellow River. The river here is clearer than that in lower and middle reaches, and the runway is narrower. At nightfall, we stood beside the Yellow River, thinking that when we saw the setting sun in Yellow River’s entrance in Dongying at the first day of the Yellow River’s 10-year travel, the sun is the same. One setting sun, one dream. It’s a beautiful painting originally, but we can’t appreciate it totally comfortably, because two cooling towers of thermal power plant stand at the opposite bank of Yellow River.


Is there sunrise shining

 tomorrow’s Yellow River?

We wanted to go to the Ulansuhai Lake directly, but it is too late. So we decided to live in Wulate Banner casually. We will go to Ulansuhai Lake to see the marsh that is honored of bright pearl of paqh.

Translator:  Tingting Liang,Luo Xijing ,Mi Yu
Proofreader: Yue Lin

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