A ‘crisis’ task force is activated in France amid extreme heatwave as a prolonged dry spell in the UK causes ‘alarming’ forecasts for UK farmers.
The French government has set up a crisis team to coordinate efforts to alleviate the effects of a “historic” drought, exacerbated by an extreme summer heatwave.
Authorities have already ordered water restrictions in almost all 96 departments in mainland France, 62 of which are on the highest alert level. Meanwhile, weather agency Meteo France is forecasting little relief in the coming weeks as temperatures are expected to hit 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit).
“This drought is the worst ever recorded in our country… the situation could continue for the next two weeks or get worse,” Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne’s office said in a statement on Friday.
The month of July 2022 was marked by a record rainfall deficit in France, with fewer than four days of rain, which is around three to ten days less than average, according to Meteo France.
The drought has prompted several southern European countries to impose water restrictions.
According to a recent European Commission report, almost half of the European Union is subject to drought alert levels.
burden on British farmers
Elsewhere, record high summer temperatures and prolonged drought in the UK are causing some farmers dire problems.
The UK government has not yet declared an official drought, but the heat and lack of rain have weighed on the agricultural sector.
Al Jazeera’s Paul Brennan, reporting from Suffolk in eastern England, said the irrigation needed to sustain farmland is unprecedented as farmers run out of water for their crops.
“The UK Environment Agency chief has warned that the gap between rising demand and falling availability is closing – a situation he described as ‘death pits’.
“The record July heatwave has now subsided, but the long-term prognosis is alarming.
“Official data suggests that by 2050 some of Britain’s most vulnerable rivers could have up to 80 per cent less water and summer temperatures could be more than seven degrees warmer than now,” he added.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, landowner Andrew Blenkiron said British farmers are “like the canary in the coal mine” when it comes to the impact of water scarcity.
“And when they’re as worried as they are now, that’s a signal that the whole country needs to be worried,” he said.