The Xi River

Endangered Big-Headed Turtles of the Xi River.
Endangered Big-Headed Turtles of the Xi River.

5. Description

River Xi (Xi Jiang) flows in China and Vietnam, and it is the main western tributary of the Pearl River. The Pearl River is also known as a dumping point for the Guangdong River, and its connection to the Xi makes it one of the most important river systems of China. The Xi River is formed in Wuzhou, Guangxi, China, where the rivers Xun and Gui meet. The River Xi is the largest of the three main tributaries of Pearl River, and it is the one that runs more than 1,300 miles before reaching the South China Sea. The Xi River also passes through northern Vietnam along its course. The Xi River is the second largest in terms of the volume of water it carries in China, second only to the famous Yangtze River.

4. Historical Role

History has it that there was a canal called the Lingqu Canal, which connected the Xi River and the Xiang Basin, that was known to have existed in the region around two thousand years ago. This effectively helped the Pearl Delta Basin to be connected to the Yangtze River as well by way of connecting their tributaries with the canal. The Xi River is one of the western borders of the Pearl River Delta. In the past, these lands on which the River Xi passed were only coastal plain lands, but today there are several fertile alluvial islands therein as well. Other than these tributaries, the Pearl River has two other tributaries in the region, namely the Dong River in the east, and the Bei River in the north.

3. Modern Significance

The Xi River, passing through the southern part of China, has made rice cultivation prosperous in these parts. Apart from rice, soybeans and wheat are also commercially cultivated here. The river has played an active role in the commercial development of the entire region, and this has helped the major Chinese cities of Wuzhou, Guangxi, Macau, and Jiangmen to develop miraculously over the years. The water from the River Xi has also helped in the forests to develop and provide bamboo and trees of commercial construction value to the people in these parts of the country.

2. Habitat and Biodiversity

The Xi River has long been the source of an abundance of freshwater fish, and this has helped the place in developing economically by way of allowing for commercial fisheries to exist. In fact, almost 380 varieties of fish exist here in this basin, and 120 of these fishes are endemic as well. In the more recent times, due to the construction of numerous dams along the basin, many fishes are becoming rare in the aquatic habitats here. The Xi River is found passing through the hills and mountainous terrain of southern China, offers a home to river turtles, more specifically including the native, and endangered, Big-headed River turtles.

1. Environmental Threats and Territorial Disputes

The construction of the Gezhouba Dam on the Yangtze near the Xi River in the 1970s and 1980s has caused significant losses in the area's Chinese Sturgeon population over the last few decades. Since the population around the riverside has increased by a great margin over the years, so has the demand for the freshwater fish there as well. There has been a marked depletion of the availability of fishes, as already noted, in certain parts as a result. In fact, even the freshwater needed for drinking is becoming contaminated, and thus causing a shortage in meeting the demand for freshwater here. Sadly, the forests along the Xi are also being converted into farmlands for meeting rice demands, thereby leading to a great damage to the biological ecosystem, as well as worsening erosion, water shortages, and wildlife losses.


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