Human and natural impacts on large rivers in China
  • Plymouth Lecture Theatre, Portland Square Building, University of Plymouth

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China is a country of great hydrological contrasts: too little precipitation in the north; much more rainfall in the south. Disastrous floods and droughts have occurred throughout China’s history and the over-supply of fine sediment from rapidly eroding areas such as the Loess Plateau has caused sedimentation of major rivers in China.

The presentation will examine the cultural importance of rivers in China, and its long history of hydraulic engineering, before considering human and natural impacts on three of China’s largest rivers. Recent findings will be presented on changes to water and sediment fluxes in the Yellow River, Yangtze River, and the Mekong River.

Important changes are due to climate change, sedimentation, sand dredging, and the construction of major dams. The challenge is how civil engineers can contribute towards China’s large rivers achieving long-term sustainability and turn China’s ‘sorrow’ into joy.

The lecture will be given by Professor Alistair Borthwick from the University of Edinburgh. Alistair has more than 40 years’ experience in civil engineering. He is an Emeritus Fellow of St Edmund Hall, Oxford, and holds Visiting Professorships at Peking, Plymouth, and Shanghai Jiao Tong Universities.

Visit the ICE South West event page for further speaker details and to book your place or email Barbara Sweet ( for further information.

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