This year China’s Southwest provinces have been hit with one of the most severe drought in history. In Yunnan Province’s Chu Xiong Prefecture, over 200,000 farmers lack access to water, the city of Bao Shan has not had rain for over 120 days, the city of Yu Xi has had a total crop failure of 341,000 mu [1 mu = 0.0667 hectares], and cities such as Kunming and Shangri-la have experienced forest fires in the past couple of days.
Up until January 30th, the drought has affected 17.55 million mu of farm land, with 2.07 million mu suffering crop failure, 3.85 million people and 2.09 million livestock have trouble accessing drinking water. Yunnan has spent a total of 1.9 hundred million yuan in order to alleviate the impacts of the drought, and has been able to temporarily provide drinking water to 2.78 million people and irrigate 7.27 million mu of crop land.
Starting from September of 2009, Yunnan‘s unusually low precipitation and high temperature have led to the severe drought that has been going on for 5 months now, and Yunnan Province’s Meteorology Department’s chief meteorologist Ma Lian Xiang reports that since conditions are unlikely to change, the severe drought will continue.
In Luliang County of Qujiang City in Yunnan Province, Dege Haizi Reservoir was once a 1.6 million cubic meter body of water, but it is now completely dried up, with palm-width cracks spreading all over the parched lake bed. When the lake started drying up, the villagers took away the large fish. The smaller ones were buried in the mud, and died as the lake’s water evaporated. Heartbreaking pictures of the little fishes trapped in the lake bed are available here. Up until March 29th, the area has not had rainfall for 126 consecutive days.
The Yunnan provincial government has made alleviating the effects of the drought a top priority. The government is exerting full force to ensure urban and rural residents, and animals have access to clean drinking water, properly manage the crop land, rice fields, and water system, take preventative measures against forest fires from occurring, raise aid money, and focus its attention on areas that have been most severely impacted by the drought.
Up until January 2010, Yunnan provincial government has amassed 40 million yuan (approximately $ 5.8 million USD) to combat the drought. The national government has also provided Yunnan with an additional 40 million yuan. This aid money has been used to dispatch 90,000 trucks to deliver water to rural areas, irrigate 7.27 million mu of farm land, and temporarily provide water to 2.78 million people and 1.54 million livestock.
The severe drought in Southwest China is a wake-up call to all of us to conserve water and use this precious resource wisely. In many Chinese households, the water used to hand wash clothes is also used to mop the floor and flush the toilet. We need to shift our paradigm that water and other natural resources are unlimited and free for our use. One day, the tap may run dry in our homes. It’s time to start changing our water consumption behavior now.