Worst drought in 50 years along Yangtze

Updated: 2011-05-25 13:38

By Wang Qian (China Daily)

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Worst drought in 50 years along Yangtze

A fisherman tries to paddle his boat through a stream amid the partially dried-up Honghu Lake in Honghu city, Central China's Hubei province, on May 20. [Photo / Xinhua]

Dry spell ravages Central China

WUHAN - The worst drought in 50 years to hit provinces along the Yangtze River may continue to plague Central China.

The China Meteorological Administration warned on Tuesday that little rain is expected in the coming 10 days and highs of 36 C are likely to hit the central and southern parts of China.

These regions will mostly see hot, dry weather during the coming week, the administration said, adding that local departments will activate cloud seeding when weather conditions are fit.

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Data indicated that rainfall in these regions is 30 to 80 percent less compared to normal years, while the provinces of Anhui, Jiangsu, Hubei, Hunan, Jiangxi, Zhejiang and Shanghai municipality continue to suffer the worst drought since 1954.

Between January and April, the Yangtze River basin received 40 percent less rainfall than the average level of the past 50 years.

Worst drought in 50 years along Yangtze
This combination of photos shows the water level in the Jiujiang section of the Yangtze River in East China's Jiangxi province has risen from 9.2 meters on May 6 (above) to 10.8 meters on May 23 (below). 

The water area of Dongting Lake in the middle reaches of the Yangtze River was 73 percent less on May 20 than the same day last year, according to statistics from the administration.

As of Monday, the lingering drought in Hubei has affected nearly 10 million people, about one sixth of its population, and influenced 1.2 million hectares of farmland, causing direct economic losses of 7.1 billion yuan ($1.1 billion), according to the provincial civil affairs department.

Since the end of last autumn, most areas of Hubei have received 50 percent less rainfall than the same period in 2010.

The Office of State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters asked the Three Gorges Dam to increase water discharges to up to 12,000 cubic meter per second (about 3,000 cu m per second more than the water flowing in) from May 25 to June 10, in order to raise the water level in the middle and lower reaches.

The water level in more than 1,300 reservoirs in Hubei province have dropped below the allowable discharge level for irrigation, said Yuan Junguang, director of the reservoir management office of Hubei provincial water resources department.

"Without adequate water, we lost the spring planting season for rice," said Zhou Xingtao, a farmer in Yandian village.

As the summer planting season approaches, farmers remain uncertain whether the occasionally pumped water will be sufficient.

Everything depends on rain, Zhou said.

With water conservancy facilities unable to provide enough water, farmers must pay high prices for irrigation, and this burden has forced some households to give up on this planting season, Zhou said.

In Hubei's Huanggang city, 3,800 kms of the city's 7,468 kms of irrigation channels are blocked, which means more than half of its farmland can't receive effective irrigation, Mayor Liu Xuerong said.

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