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February 10, 2009
China faces worst drought in 50 years; wheat crops suffer

Threshers in Pingyao, China.

China has declared a drought emergency and plans to provide nearly $13 billion in relief money, primarily to aid suffering wheat-growing regions outside Beijing in northern China.

More than 4 million people face water shortages in the worst drought in 50 years.

China has begun diverting water from major rivers and used artificial rainmaking to try to stem the effects of the drought, which poses a threat to rural farmers and their crops.

Mark’s China Blog” writes that China is drying up:

The other day, a few of my friends and I were trying to remember the last time it rained in Xi’an. We couldn’t. We figured it had to have been in November or October. […]Just from living in Xi’an though, I can tell you that it hasn’t been raining at all.

Living in a large city, this isn’t that big of a deal. It is surely a bigger deal for farmers living out in the countryside who depend upon falling rain for survival.

This drying of China is nothing new. Northern and Northwest China are currently being crushed by a massive wave of desertification. The Gobi and Taklamakan deserts in China’s Northwest frontier are spreading to other parts of the country very quickly.

North China’s desertification, droughts, and, general, drying out is a very serious problem. Combining these phenomena with the melting glaciers in the Himalayas and their falling water tables and it’s hard to see where China is going to get its water in the future.

A blogger at “Global Voices Online” translates a Chinese blog post from “bandanjilin,” describing how the drought combined with the economic crisis may have disastrous consequences:

Although local government tried very hard to fight against the drought, if the weather continues like this, it will affect the summer harvest. With the financial crisis, we can imagine how hard the life of rural peasants will become. In the past years, the weather has been good, and the peasants can be self-sufficient in food supply. Extra labors can earn cash income to improve life. Now that the rain stops, their lives will be much harder. I am the son of a farmer, and I have two years farmer experience. I know how hard a farmer life is. Among all the occupation, farmer is the hardest.

Blogger “Bezdomny” argues that Beijing’s wasteful water use comes at the expense of rural areas:

When I lived in Taiyuan, I had mains water supply only three times a day. The rest of the time my water came from a tank on the roof — but not for the washing machine, that was mains-only, which meant I had to be really organised about doing laundry. And my in laws in a village in Beijing’s Yanqing county get their water from a tap in the courtyard. And their mains supply is frequently cut off — especially, but by no means exclusively, over winter nights. Therefore (and because Yanqing is Beijing’s coldest county) they store water in a large vat in the kitchen. Isn’t it about time city Beijingers were made to understand the Damoclean sword that is the severe scarcity of water this city faces? Especially in a time of severe drought?

[…]Let me just state yet again that one of my biggest worries about Beijing’s future is water. And I think far too little emphasis is placed on rural China (especially in expat circles). And therefore this drought really worries me.

Map of the drought-affected regions. Photo: ReliefWeb

Blogger “Ying Jia” writes about China’s water usage in relation to its growth:

The wasteful ways of the nation also bear an enormous responsibility. China’s agricultural sector uses 66 percent of China’s total water consumption, mostly for irrigation purposes, but about half of the water is wasted due to leaky pipes. The World Resources Institute found that Chinese industries generally use 10-20 percent more water than their counterparts in developed countries to spur growth. This inefficiency has long term dire consequences for severe water shortages. As the quality of life has improved since China’s reform and opening, rapid urbanization has led to larger consumption of water, where city dwellers take lengthy showers, use washing machines and dishwashers and purchase homes with lawns that need to be watered. This is the very cost of China’s economic boom.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user televiseus under a Creative Commons license.

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THE WHOLE NATION HAS NO SYSTEMATIC WAY TO HANDLE ALMOST ANY THING. FROM HEALTH SYSTEM TO IRRIGTION. AS LONG AS THERE ARE NO LARGE SCALE DISASTROUS THINGS BURST OPEN, THE GOV’MT WILL DO VERY LITTLE! CORRUPTION AT THE BOTTOM IS VERY SERIOUS I.E. THE IRRIGATION SYSTEM SHOULD BE MAINTAIMED CONSTANTLY,THE OVERLOADED TANKS CARRING TOXIC AND EXPLOSIVE CHEMICALS GO THRU DENSE POPULATED VILLAGES CITIES SHOULD BE STOPPED,MAKING, SELLING,AND BUYING THE POISON CHEMICALS SHOULD BE CONTROLLED TIGHTLY,BUT IF THE LOCAL OFFICialS were absent-minded,only think of their own short term $benfit ,NOTHING CAN BE DONE. i think they misinterpreted the meaning of freedom and modernization.
ACTUALLY THE UP level officials did setup many rules and allocated $millions to handle irrigation problems agriculture. BUT MONEY DISAPEARED( IN THE CASE OF HUAIHO RIVER’S POLLUTION BILLION FUNDS HAVE BE USED BUT THE POLLUTION ARE NOT GETTING BETTER.) WHY????!!!!

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