XINING, Oct. 25 (Xinhua) -- The Sanjiangyuan region of the Qinghai-Tibet plateau, home to the key source of China's mother rivers, has seen its lakes swell as environmental protection projects take effect.
The surface area of lakes in the Sangjiangyuan region in northwest China has increased by 760 square kilometers over the past eight years, protecting the headstreams of China's Yangtze River, Yellow River and Lantsang River, according to the Sangjiangyuan office under the Qinghai provincial government.
Gyaring Lake and Ngoring Lake, the two largest freshwater lakes at the headstreams of the Yellow River, have grown by 34.7 square kilometers and 64.4 square kilometers respectively since 2004, according to data from the Qinghai Meteorological Administration.
"It's a good sign that the lakes have grown bigger, which means the environment of the area has improved," said Li Xiaonan, deputy head of the Sanjiangyuan office.
With an average altitude of 4,000 meters, Sanjiangyuan, which means "source of three rivers" in Chinese, lies in the hinterland of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and is home to China's biggest and highest wetlands ecosystem.
Though it is known as "China's water tower," Sanjiangyuan has been faced with reduced water resources and shrinking lakes due to climate change and human activities since the late 1980s.
In 2005, the central government invested 7.5 billion yuan (about 1.2 U.S. dollars) for the Sanjiangyuan ecological restoration project, with measures including wetlands protection, grazeland-to-grassland restoration, forest reservation and water and soil conservation.
As the first phase of the project comes to an end, the spectacular "one thousand lakes" landscape has reappeared in the wetlands of Sangjiangyuan, said Li.
As water conservation capability has improved in Sanjiangyuan, land erosion has been curbed. In the Sanjiangyuan National Nature Reserve, land erosion in 2012 decreased by more than 35.1 million tons compared to 2004.
"The trend of ecological degradation has been alleviated somewhat as we have seen more rain and vegetation in Sanjiangyuan," Li said.