China's lakes have been shrinking dramatically and seeing more floods as people turn large tracts of lakeside grassland into farmland and extracting the water in tributaries to irrigate the croplands. As a result, an average of 20 natural lakes disappear from the earth each year, according to a latest report released by the State Forestry Administration.
In the last 50 years, nearly 1000 natural lakes have disappeared in central and eastern China when the lakeside grassland was turned to farmland. Now only 83 lakes are left for the Hubei Province, a "province of thousand lakes" that once boasted 1052 lakes in the 1950s. The disappearance of lakes has directly cut short the water reserve for big rivers and the risk of floods rise.
In the western area, a large batch of lakes have dried up or turned into salt lakes due to lack of water sources, strong evaporation and large extraction of water in tributaries, the report said. Except for the renowned Lop-nor, the east and west Juyan lakes have both been reduced into a stretch of deserts. The Manas Lake in the east of Junggar Basin, which once covered an area of 577.8 square meters, also became saline land and deserts.
Deterioration of the lake environment has caused frequent floods and thus become an element holding back sustainable development of the economy. The nation now is making an effort to change the situation by returning the converted farmland to lakes.