Worldwide Locations

Worldwide Locations

Video: Cleaning Asia's Longest River 'A Thankless Job'




Workers clear heaps of trash outside the sluice gates at the Three Gorges dam near Yichang in central China's Hubei province on June 10, 2003. (AFP/Getty Images)

Workers clear heaps of trash outside the sluice gates at the Three Gorges dam near Yichang in central China's Hubei province on June 10, 2003. (AFP/Getty Images)

Asia Society's China Green project, part of the Center on US-China Relations, has posted its latest video, Don't Cry, Three Gorges, about the lonely crew responsible for cleaning debris left on the Yangtze River after it was flooded by the Three Gorges Dam. The video is embedded below.

China Green summarizes the documentary short — produced by Chen Fu and Shen Shiping, and edited by Sun Yunfan — like this:

Since the first Three Gorges generator started operations in 2003 the water level in the reservoir has been rising, and with it China’s ability to increase its hydroelectric capacity. From the banks up stream thousands of tons of garbage are constantly carried down by water into the reservoir. Such a huge amount of waste threatens to jam the miter gate of the dam, possibly damaging the propellers and huls of passing boats, and it is a blight on the scenery and the water quality of the area. These serious challenges, though expected by environmentalists for years, have not been met with sufficient countermeasures from the government.

In Don’t Cry, Three Gorges (2010) director Chen Fu documented the work and life of Liu Gujun, captain of Wanzhou River Cleaning Unit. In 2003, Liu Gujun stopped his fishing and transportation business, used his own savings and ships and started a river cleaning team, organizing fellow fishermen to collect floating garbage that covered some 10 miles of waters in the Yangtze River near Chongqing. What came out of a courageous attempt to save the mother river has turned into a perpetual defensive battle.

Today the river cleaning unit has been taken over by the local government, and Liu keeps working with his fellow fishermen to keep the reservoir clean for a very minimal wage. The local garbage treatment facility has yet to be substantially expanded to keep up with the tons of garbage the unit keeps collecting everyday.