SHANGHAI IS THE latest city to introduce electricity rationing as drought and extreme temperatures overstrain the country’s power grid.
Buildings along the Bund have been told to turn off external lighting for two evenings early this week to save power.
In the middle reaches of the Yangtze river, where conditions are severe, falling water levels have reduced the power supply from its hydroelectric dams. At the same time, demand for air conditioning has soared.
Factories and shopping malls in Chongqing have already been subject to temporary power cuts as authorities prioritise supply to domestic consumers.
Impacts on production have varied; vehicle maker VW says its plant has shut down, while electronics maker Foxconn says the effects have been minimal.
Authorities have extended the power saving measures by five days into a second week, with Sichuan and the rest of the Southwest bearing the brunt of the extreme heat.
Falling water levels have also disrupted shipping. Tesla’s Shanghai plant has suspended production because components are not arriving from Sichuan.
The impact on agriculture is growing, too. On Saturday, Sichuan’s provincial disaster committee said that 47,000 hectares of crops had been lost and 433,000 hectares damaged. More than 800,000 people face a shortage of drinking water.
In neighbouring Hubei province, authorities say 6.9 million hectares of crops are damaged, and a further 220,000 people are short of drinking water.
Brush fires are starting to be reported, adding further peril.
State media report that the drought threatens the autumn grain harvest, which provides three-quarters of the annual yield. Authorities are cloud seeding to try to induce rain.
China issued the year’s first national drought warning last week, a yellow alert, the third highest. The summer is the hottest and driest since China began keeping temperature and rainfall records in 1961, adding to the stress on an already slowing economy.