China races to alleviate drought, power cuts amid record heatwave
China is taking emergency action to bring more water to the drought-hit basin of the Yangtze River, deploying relief funds, seeding clouds and developing new supply sources as a record-breaking heatwave damages crops and livestock.
The Ministry of Water Resources said in a notice on Wednesday that drought throughout the Yangtze River basin was "adversely affecting drinking water security of rural people and livestock, and the growth of crops."
It urged regions to make accurate assessments of drought-affected areas and devise plans to maintain water supplies, including temporary water transfers, the development of new sources and the extension of pipe networks.
To boost downstream supplies, the Three Gorges Dam, China's biggest hydropower project, will also increase water discharges by 500 million cubic meters over the next 10 days, it said on Tuesday.
Some livestock from drought-hit areas had been temporarily relocated to other regions, the Ministry of Finance said earlier this week, adding that it would issue 300 million yuan (US$44.30 million) in disaster relief.
On Wednesday, central China's Hubei Province became the latest to announce an extensive weather modification program, deploying planes to fire silver iodide rods into the clouds to induce rainfall.
Other regions on the Yangtze have also launched "cloud seeding" programs, but with cloud cover too thin, operations in some drought-ravaged parts of the Yangtze basin have remained on standby.
China's heatwave has now lasted 64 days, making it the longest since full records began in 1961, state media said on Wednesday, citing data from the National Climate Center.
The number of weather stations recording temperatures of 40 degrees Celsius and above has reached 262, also the highest. Eight have hit 44 degrees.
Persistently high temperatures would continue in the Sichuan Basin and large parts of central China until August 26, the center forecast.
Southwestern China's Sichuan Province began limiting electricity supply to homes, offices and malls on Wednesday, due to a severe power crunch, according to state media and one power company.
Residential areas, offices and shopping malls in Dazhou, a city of 5.4 million people, were informed of rotating brownouts each lasting several hours throughout on Wednesday, according to the official WeChat account of state-run Dazhou Power Group.
Residential brownouts are rare as China typically limits power supply to industries first to prioritize residential and commercial use in any power squeeze.
In what appears to be an official call to conserve electricity use, government offices were asked to set air conditioners to no lower than 26 degrees and use more staircases instead of lifts, the Sichuan Daily said in a front-page report on Wednesday.
Fountains, light shows and commercial activities during the night hours are to be suspended, it said.
Sichuan, which relies on hydropower to generate 80 percent of its power, on Sunday ordered producers of lithium, fertilizers and other metals to shut plants or curb output amid the worst heatwave in 60 years.
Soaring temperatures and little rain this summer have reduced hydropower generation in the province of 83.75 million people, while also boosting demand for air conditioning.
Analysts said if the heatwave persists the power crunch could spill over to eastern provinces like Zhejiang and Jiangsu which have relied partly on buying electricity from Sichuan.
Meanwhile, more than 350,000 people's drinking water has been affected by the drought in Chongqing as the city has been hit by back-to-back heatwaves, according to China Central Television.
Affected by the hot weather, the average precipitation since July in Chongqing is about half of that for the same period of previous years. Some small and medium-sized rivers are so dry they have stopped flowing.
Chengkou, one of the most remote counties in Chongqing, has experienced nine high-temperature days – defined as days when the temperature exceeds 35 degrees – since July, eight days more than the same period in normal years, the most high-temperature days since 1958, The Paper reported on Tuesday.
Since the beginning of this year, total rainfall in Chengkou is 415.8 millimeters, 58 percent of the average rainfall in the same period.