February 21st, 2012 | Shanghai Daily 3 years of drought, and it could get worse
A SEVERE drought exacerbating water shortages and hindering agricultural production in southwest China’s Yunnan Province could get worse as there is little prospect of rain any time soon, the country’s weather authority said yesterday.
Most areas in Yunnan will have sunny and cloudless weather this week, the National Metrological Center said.
A drought that has plagued the province for the past three years has affected 6.31 million people in 91 counties, according to provincial civil affairs authorities. More than 2.42 million people and 1.55 million livestock are short of drinking water.
Reservoirs have been drying up, while wheat and other plants are withering in most of the affected counties. People have to walk greater distances to larger reservoirs to collect water.
On some reservoirs in Shilin County it is possible to drive on the reservoir bed as the earth has dried and cracked, Xinhua news agency said.
Farmers are planting wheat and soybeans, which require less water to grow, but even these crops are drying out. Some farmers have begun pulling out the dried wheat to feed their buffalo, Xinhua said.
The drought has caused agricultural losses of some 2.2 billion yuan (US$349 million), Yunnan’s department of agriculture said.
Some 376,170 hectares of farmland in the 91 counties and 13 cities have been affected, including 62,480 hectares of farmland which yielded no crops, the department said.
The continuous drought since 2009 has also pushed up the price of traditional Chinese medicine as Yunnan is a major production area for TCM drugs.
Prices have been rising at around 30 percent a year on more than 80 percent of drugs from the province as production declines, officials said.
The lack of rainfall since last autumn has reduced the water level of many rivers. Levels are 80 percent lower compared to previous years in some major rivers in China’s southeast, said the Office of State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters.
It estimates that more than 3 million people are facing a shortage of drinking water because of drought that is also affecting southwest China’s Sichuan Province and the northern Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.
By Yang Jian