Drought warning over grain yields

Workers at a national natural reserve in Shishou, Hubei Privince attempts to help freshwater dolphins Friday whose lives were threatened by dangerously low water levels due to a severe drought. Photo: CFP

Persistent drought in the Yangtze River’s middle and lower reaches in southeastern China has led to fears over grain yields and forced the government to discharge more water from the three Gorges Dam and send relief aid to the worst-hit areas, China News Service reported Saturday.

Rainfall over the river’s middle and lower reaches has declined by 40 to 60 percent this year, hitting the lowest level seen since 1961, said the Office of State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters (SFDH) on Friday.

By Wednesday, a total of 98.12 million mu of land (6.54 million hectares) and 33 million mu of crops (2.2 million hectares) in Hubei, Gansu, Jiangxi and Hunan provinces had suffered drought. Overall, 4.42 million people in Gansu, Hunan, Hubei and Yunnan provinces and the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region do not have adequate water supplies to meet their daily needs, SFDH said Friday.

On Saturday, the Ministry of Agriculture warned that rice production in drought-hit areas might be affected by the lack of water.

The SFDH sent water pumping equipment to Hunan and Hubei provinces on Thursday and increased water discharge from the Three Gorges Dam to 10,000 cubic meters per second from Friday to the middle of June, it announced Friday.

About 600 million cubic meters of water have been discharged from the dam over the past three days, the Yangtze River Water Conservancy Commission said Sunday.

The drought is so severe that China’s second-largest lake and its largest freshwater lake, Poyang Lake in Jiangxi Province, now measures just 1,326 square kilometers in area, a 10th of its size during the high-water season, the Beijing Youth Daily reported Sunday.

Wildlife in the Yangtze River region is at risk due to the drought.  The finless porpoises in a wildlife reserve region in Shishou, Hubei Province, are facing great threat the water level keeps lowered, according to the Xinhua News Agency.

The drought-hit regions in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River will see a precipitation of 5 to 30 mm today, the National Meteorological Center said on Sunday in its website.

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