The drought in central and southern China, now spreading east along the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze river has affected more than 5% of the country’s farmland, officials say. That is 7 million hectares of crops, with approaching 1m head of livestock short of water. Economic losses are put at 15 billion yuan ($2.3 billion) so far. Vegetable prices have risen by a fifth in the drought-struck areas. Some 35 million people across five provinces have been affected with more than 4 million short of drinking water. The country’s two largest freshwater lakes, Dongting Lake in Hunan and Poyang Lake in Jiangxi, are drying up. The centers of both now cracked mud and grassland.
There is no rain in the forecast to alleviate the country’s worst drought in half a century. In Hunan, it is now being described as the worst drought in nearly a century while Shanghai is having its driest spell in 138 years.
The rate of discharge from the Three Gorges Dam has again been increased to help with irrigation downstream at the start of the summer farming season. The rate is now running at 10-20% above normal, but officials say that the dam won’t be able to continue providing sufficient water after mid-June if there is no rain as the dam’s water level would by then have fallen to 145 meters, 10 meters below the minimum considered necessary for shipping’s safety.