The Yangtze River in China is drying up in scorching temperatures

The Yangtze River in China is drying up in scorching temperatures

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China is suffering its worst-ever drought as rising temperatures dry up important parts of the Yangtze River, damaging crops and limiting drinking water supplies in some rural communities.

The hardest-hit regions are in China’s central and southern provinces, where a prolonged heatwave has exacerbated drought conditions, authorities said.

Chinese officials this week announced several new measures to mitigate the impact, including financial aid, cloud seeding and the closure of some energy-intensive industries.

China shuts factories, rations electricity as heatwave chokes economy

In Hubei, in central China, authorities said they would seed clouds to trigger new rainfall after it was found that 4.2 million people were affected by the drought. The southwestern province of Sichuan, which relies heavily on hydroelectric power, has also ordered factories in 19 cities and prefectures to suspend operations until Saturday to preserve power for the public.

The temperature in a neighboring district reached a record 45 degrees Celsius, or 113 Fahrenheit, China’s weather bureau said on Thursday. The Treasury Department also this week pledged to distribute about $44 million in disaster relief to affected communities.

The crisis follows years of expert warnings that China, the world’s largest emitter of carbon dioxide, would face extreme weather events as a result. Beijing has presented itself as a leader in fighting climate change, but it also continues to build coal-fired power plants that produce carbon dioxide, mercury and other harmful emissions.

Jin Xiandong, a spokesman for the National Development and Reform Commission, said Tuesday that the shortage of hydroelectric power has increased the country’s reliance on coal.

The Three Gorges Dam, China’s largest hydropower project, said it will increase water discharges in the coming days to support downstream basins, Portal reported.

China’s summer floods and heatwaves are fueling climate change plans

In Hubei, the provincial emergency department also said this week that nearly 400,000 hectares of crops have already been damaged and that more than 150,000 people now have limited access to drinking water. The local government will also try cloud seeding, a process that involves shooting silver iodide sticks into the sky to trigger new precipitation.

However, in some regions along the Yangtze River, cloud cover appeared too thin to seed, CNN reported.

China has engaged in weather manipulation in the past, including at the Beijing 2008 Olympics when 21 government-run stations fired rockets at clouds above the open-air Bird’s Nest Stadium to stop rain during the opening ceremony.