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Qinghai Lake, the largest saltwater lake in China, is shrinking with some major tributaries drying up due to reduced water inflows. Located in Qinghai Province on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, the lake now covers an area of 4,000 square kilometers, 700 sq km fewer than in 1908.
In the 1960s, 108 freshwater rivers emptied into Qinghai Lake. When local farmers turned large tracts of lakeside grassland into farmland, the environment had deteriorated.
Due to arid conditions this year and large amounts of water extracted from the lake to irrigate farmland, the volume of water in the lake has shrunk sharply.
"Nearly 85 percent of the rivers around Qinghai Lake have dried up now, including the Buh River, the lake's largest tributary, and some other major ones. The lake's water level has dropped by 12 centimeters a year," said Zhao Yimin, director of the Provincial Aquatic Bureau.
Deje Cering, deputy director of the provincial agricultural department, says the size of Qinghai Lake should be maintained by a good environment that consists of grassland, water, fish and birds. Reduction in the volume of water in the lake poses a serious threat to the lives of its fish and birds.
To reverse the adverse situation, the government of Qinghai Province has decided to convert 14,600 ha of farmland to grassland this year. The area will be expanded to 33,300 ha by the end of next year.