A monument was erected at the source of the Yangtze river in China on 5 June 1999, to commemorate Environment Day. After investigations by officials from the State Environmental Protection Administration, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, as well as Qinghai and Sichuan provincial governments, the decision was taken to build the monument where the river meets the Qinghai-Tibet highway. Its aim is to strengthen public awareness of environmental protection along the river.

Environmental conditions have deteriorated along the Yangtze river since the 1950s. The percentage of area along the river covered with abundant vegetation has plummeted from 22% in 1957 to just 10% in the 1990s. The river gorges are plagued by soil erosion and 2.1B tons of sand are washed in to the Yangtze every year.

To help rectify such environmental problems a project called Save Mother Rivers has also been launched. Chinese people are being encouraged to plant trees on 33,330ha of land along the Yangtze and Yellow rivers to prevent further ecological disasters.