Yellow River (Huang He, Hwang Ho)

Huang he in Mandarin. It is the second longest river in China. Tracing to the source high up in the Yagradagze mountain in China's far west, it loops north, bends south, and flows east for 5,464 km until it empties into the sea, draining into a 745000 km2 basin, which nourishes 120 million people. Millennia ago the Chinese civilization emerged from the central region of this basin, making it the "Cradle of Chinese civilization".

Throughout history much effort had been devoted to improving the flood prevention capability of the levee-lined channel. However, keeping pace with an ever-rising channel bed was no easy task, and the protection offered by levees is marginal at best. Historical records indicate progressively frequent levee breaching in the last ten centuries. During such breaches, the flood water would rush onto the surrounding lands, not only inundating farmland and communities, but also taking over existing river channels. The devastated areas would be totally transformed even after the damaged levee sections were repaired and closed and the flood water drained.

Such devastation caused untold human suffering. The Yellow River is also called China's Sorrow. Records indicate that the river's levees were breached more than 1,500 times and its course changed 26 times in the last three millennia. In 1194AD, flood water rushed onto the Huai River basin south of the Yellow River and took over that river's drainage system for the next 700 years. The river adopted its present course in 1897 after the final course change occurred in 1855. To this day, floods still ravage frequently the damaged Huai River system, reducing the rich Huai River valley, where the Grand Canal once traversed, to poverty.

The last major flood of the Yellow River occurred last year. Although there was no major change in the course of the river, millions were displaced from their homes. Over a half million soldiers in the People's Liberation Army was mobilized to help contain the flood.

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