China has warned that severe drought conditions along the Yangtze River could last well into September as local governments scramble to maintain power supplies and find sources of fresh water to irrigate crops ahead of the fall harvest.
Floods caused by heavy rains in western China’s Qinghai province have killed 16 people, state media reported Thursday, with 36 others missing.
A severe heat wave in the basin of China’s longest river, the Yangtze, caused by a higher-than-usual western Pacific subtropical high, has lasted for more than two months, reducing hydropower supply and drying up large swathes of land. arable land.
In the sprawling southwestern region of Chongqing, where most of the Yangtze Three Gorges Reservoir is located, the grid is now struggling to get electricity from other parts of the country as supply to industrial consumers is rationed, media reported. state.
China’s state-owned grid has also promised to do its best to send power to neighboring Sichuan province, which normally supplies large amounts of surplus hydropower to the east coast but is now imposing strict consumption controls.
Normal water flows in the region could still be months away as rains are expected to remain scant until the end of this month and beyond, Liu Zhiyu, an official with the Ministry of Water Resources, told a news briefing. press release on Wednesday.
“Water inflows in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze are expected to remain low in September and drought in Anhui, Hubei, Hunan and Jiangxi may develop further,” Liu warned, referring to four major provinces in the middle reaches. from the river.
Rainfall in the Yangtze Basin has been 45% below normal since July and high temperatures are likely to persist for at least another week, according to official forecasts.
Authorities in the region also warned that temperatures would continue to exceed 40 degrees Celsius on Thursday and parts of Chongqing could exceed 44 degrees, putting further pressure on power supply amid increased use of air conditioners. .
The water level in the main body of the Yangtze and in the vital lakes of the Dongting and Poyang flood basins is now at least 4.85 meters lower than normal and the lowest recorded for the period, officials said. .
The Yangtze Maritime Safety Bureau has issued several low-water warnings, ordering ships to reduce their cargo when passing through the shallower parts of the river.
Coal transport rates along the river increased 8% last week due to reduced transport capacity.
Control of water resources is seen as a crucial part of China’s government as it tries to secure food supplies and ensure another bountiful harvest.
Rice and other autumn crops are now in a “critical period” when it comes to irrigation, Liu Weiping, Vice Minister of Water Resources, warned at the same press conference on Wednesday.
He said some 820,000 hectares of farmland from Sichuan in the southwest to Anhui in central China have been damaged, affecting 830,000 people as well as 160,000 head of livestock.
The drought has also exposed the role that the cascade of gigantic hydroelectric projects plays in regulating the flow of the Yangtze, which supports a third of China’s population.
Giant upstream reservoirs such as Xiluodu and Xiangjiaba have opened their floodgates to replenish the storage levels of the Three Gorges Dam, which will release 830 million cubic meters downstream in the coming days, Liu said.
Reservoirs along the Yangtze have already released another 5.3 billion cubic meters of water since the beginning of August.
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