Severe drought persists in central and eastern China

Updated:Sun, Jan 13, 2013 07:40 AM   By Bernd Chang

China Drought,Yangtze River

A dead tortoise lies on the cracked riverbed of Hanjiang River, a major tributary of Yangtze River, in Wuhan, Central China's Hubei province, May 19, 2011. Hanjiang, one of the Yangtze River branches, is being dried up due to a lasting drought.

BEIJING, May 29 -- China's National Meteorological Center on Sunday kept its 'yellow alert' for the persistent drought that is plaguing many central and eastern provinces of China
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BEIJING, May 29 -- China's National Meteorological Center on Sunday kept its "yellow alert" for the persistent drought that is plaguing many central and eastern provinces of China.

The observatory said there will be still no effective precipitation in the coming days in provinces and municipalities along the lower and middle reaches of the Yangtze River and dry weather will continue to develop in spite of scattered drizzle.

China's meteorological disaster alerts are categorized as blue, yellow, orange and red as the severity of disasters ascends.

The Xinhua reports that provinces including Hubei, Jiangxi, Anhui, Jiangsu and Zhejiang have experienced abnormally low rainfall levels this year, with the area surrounding the Yangtze river basin receiving 40 to 60 percent less rain than average levels over the past 50 years.

The overall effect of the drought is extremely severe, with impacts on drinking supplies, fishing, rice harvests, and commercial trade as well, with shipping carriers across a stretch of the Yangtze halted since May 11th. There are also expected power shortages due to hydroelectric operations coming to a standstill in several sections of the Yangtze.

China's two largest fresh water lakes - Dongting Lake (洞庭湖) in Hunan and Poyang Lake (鄱阳湖) in Jiangxi - are both drying up dramatically. The surface area for Lake Poyang has now been reduced to one-tenth of its former size, with water levels declining by 5 meters. And 1400 small lakes in Hubei province have been declared 'dead' by authorities.

Professor Guo Qinghan of the Hubei Academy of Social Sciences says that, due to land reclamation and soil erosion, some lakes are as shallow as 'dinner plates'.

And even dolphins are catching hell.

Chinese government have ordered the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River to discharge more water in an attempt to combat the drought in downstream provinces.

From May 25 to June 10, the water discharge rate was increased from the normal 10,000 cubic meters a second to between 11,000 and 12,000 cubic meters a second.

Though the increased volume of water discharged had helped irrigate 575,000 hectares of farmland by Saturday, a senior manager of the China Three Gorges Corporation said that if there is no rainfall before June 10, the dam will lose the capacity to relieve the drought.

On May 20, a statement from State Council acknowledged the dam's negative effect on downstream water supplies. However, the assertion that the Three Gorges Dam should be blamed for the drought has already been vehimently denied elsewhere. Hubei Provincial Weather Bureau meteorologist Liu Min declared the drought was a 'periodical phenomenon', rather than the result of 'improper water conservation'.


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