Lingering spring drought hits central, south China

WUHAN – Although renowned as the “land of a thousand lakes”, central China’s Hubei province has been plagued by a lingering spring drought, which has impacted grain production and disrupted the area’s supply of drinking water.

About 150,000 people and 50,000 livestock have had difficulty in getting drinking water as a result of the drought. Approximately 10 million mu (about 1.6 million acres) of farmland have been affected by the drought.

The long drought has affected Hubei’s role as China’s major grain and cotton producer, according to provincial governor Wang Guosheng. Hubei has not been alone in its struggles – the nearby provinces of Jiangxi and Hunan, both of which are also major grain producers, have also been affected by the drought.

South China has seen a 50 percent decrease in average precipitation since the start of this year, which has caused several major rivers and reservoirs to dry up. The drought has also hampered spring harvest efforts, according to the Office of State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters.

“Forecasts say that there will be even less rain in the coming days in Hubei. It is inevitable that we will see reductions in our grain output,” says Wang.

Farmers in Jiangxi have had a tough time fighting the effects of the historic dry spell.

“In more than half a century, I’ve never seen a drought so long that it prevents us from sowing new seeds,” said Tu Huaibao, a 61-year-old farmer living in the province’s village of Huanhu.

For Tu and his fellow farmers, it is common procedure to irrigate their seeds soon after planting them.

“However, the land is so dry and there’s not much water in the nearby lakes. We can do nothing but watch the weeds grow. If it doesn’t rain within ten days, the seeds will never grow,” said Zhang Yuandong, a farmer from the village of Yongjian in Jiangxi province.

According to Zhou Yuehua, deputy director of the Hubei Provincial Meteorological Bureau’s Wuhan climate center, the weather pattern known as “La Nina” is to blame for the region’s rain woes. “La Nina” causes lower sea surface temperatures, which in turn affects precipitation levels.

Jiangxi’s average rainfall for the last four months has only been 253 mm, 46 percent of the annual average level and the lowest level seen in more than 50 years, according to Jiangxi’s Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters.

The drought has also disrupted water supplies in East China’s Anhui province, which has seen its lowest rainfall levels for the same period since 1949.

Central China’s Henan province, another agricultural base, has also been plagued by the drought, with comparatively low rainfalls and high temperatures.

The provinces of Guangdong, Yunnan and Sichuan have also been affected, as well as the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region. Guangdong has recorded its lowest levels of rainfall in 60 years.

However, relief may still be in sight for some of these regions. Parts of Hunan, Jiangxi, Fujian and Guangdong provinces have received rain since last Saturday. Two heavy rainstorms recently hit Hunan, replenishing its reservoirs and negating some of the effects of the drought.

Droughts have occurred frequently in China in recent years, putting the nation’s fragile water conservation facilities to a grim test.

China will strive to improve the country’s underdeveloped water conservation facilities over the next 5 to 10 years, according to a document issued jointly by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and the State Council, China’s cabinet.

From Xinhua

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