China’s agricultural areas and industrial centers are suffering from worsening drought conditions and water shortages

Hundreds of persimmons that should be laden with yellow fruit lie wilted in the greenhouse at Gan Bingdong in southwest China.

The dead trees only add to growing agricultural losses in a scorching summer that is the driest in the country for six decades.

Mr Gan’s farm south of the industrial metropolis of Chongqing lost half its vegetable crop in heat of up to 41 degrees Celsius and a drought that narrowed the giant Yangtze River and withered crops in central China. China.

His surviving eggplants are no bigger than strawberries.

A reservoir next to his farm dried up, forcing him to pump groundwater.

“The high temperatures this year are very annoying,” he says.

Gan Bingdong is one of thousands of Chinese farmers hard hit by the drought. (PA: Mark Schiefelbein)

Drought conditions in parts of China, from the densely populated east to the central agricultural provinces to eastern Tibet, have “significantly increased”, according to the national meteorological agency.

Forecasts call for high temperatures and no rain from Jiangsu and Anhui provinces northwest of Shanghai, through Chongqing and Sichuan provinces to eastern Tibet.

A wilted plant contains a shriveled pepper.
Much of Mr. Gan’s crop is dead or half the size it should be. (PA: Mark Schiefelbein)

Local authorities have been ordered “to use all available water sources” to supply households and livestock.

Drought shuts down areas dependent on hydroelectricity

The biggest impact is in Sichuan, where factories were closed and offices and shopping malls were ordered to turn off air conditioning after reservoirs to generate hydroelectricity fell to half of their normal level.

The province of 94 million people gets 80% of its electricity from hydroelectric dams.

Factories making processor chips for smartphones, car components, solar panels and other industrial goods were shut down for at least six days until Aug. 20.

A dry lake bed with only a small puddle in the middle.  A man walks towards him, green trees behind
Many community reservoirs across China have dried up. (PA: Mark Schiefelbein)

Some say production will be depressed while others say customer supply will not be affected.

The shutdowns add to challenges for the ruling Communist Party as President Xi Jinping prepares to try to break with tradition and give himself a third five-year term in office later this year.

Growth in industrial production and retail sales weakened in July, dampening China’s economic recovery after Shanghai and other industrial hubs shut down from late March to fight virus outbreaks.

A woman holding an umbrella stands on a rocky shore next to a shallow river.  A suspension bridge spans the horizon
The Yangtze River is approaching record water levels.(Reuters: Thomas Pierre )

The economy grew only 2.5% year-on-year in the first half of 2022, less than half of the official annual target of 5.5%.

State-run utilities transfer electricity to Sichuan from other provinces.

Water-scarce villages in eastern China

Authorities used fire trucks to deliver water to two dry villages near Chongqing.

In Hubei province, east of Chongqing, 220,000 people needed clean water, while 6.9 million hectares of crops were damaged.

The provincial government has declared a drought emergency and released disaster relief.

In Sichuan, 47,000 hectares of crops were lost and 433,000 hectares damaged, according to the government’s disaster committee.

The committee indicates that 819,000 people face a shortage of drinking water.

According to Chongqing authorities, around 1 million people in rural areas will face drinking water shortages, Shanghai newspaper The Paper reported.

“We will have to find a solution”

Mr. Gan, the farmer south of Chongqing, lost a third of his persimmon plants.

Farmers in the region typically harvest rice in late August or September, but plan to finish at least two weeks earlier before the plants die, according to Gan.

A community tank next to Mr. Gan’s farm is nearly empty, leaving a pond surrounded by cracked earth.

Dry cracked earth with tiny weeds growing on it as a man stands near a small pool of water in a pond
Mr. Gan now relies on other sources of water to keep his crops alive. (PA: Mark Schiefelbein)

After the supply channels dried up, a leak occurred and the heat accelerated the evaporation.

Mr. Gan pumps groundwater for irrigation.

“If the high temperature comes back every year, we will have to find a solution such as making nets, daily irrigation or installing a spraying system to reduce losses,” he explains.

    A shriveled plant on dry ground receives a small stream of water from a hose.  Feet in sandals in upper corner and shadow of man
The water comes from underground sources now that the basin has dried up. (PA: Mark Schiefelbein)

Meanwhile, other areas have suffered deadly flash floods.

Floods in the northwest province of Qinghai have killed at least 23 people and left eight missing, the official Xinhua news agency reported, citing local authorities.

Landslides and overflowing rivers hit six villages in Datong County, Qinghai on Thursday night, according to the report.

Some 1,500 people have been driven from their homes.


About Keneth T. Graves

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