The extreme temperatures are expected to prevail another week at least.
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It is not only the people who are suffering the searing heat; the economy is also under strain due to the climate.
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The rising mercury has created drought-like conditions in many parts of China as its longest river (and the longest in Asia) – the Yangtze – has dried up by 20 per cent. The river basin experienced the lowest rainfall in six decades impacting drinking water supply, electricity supply and irrigation.
Yangtze waters are a lifeline for about a third of the vast country. The Chinese government has said that many regions in the river’s basin did not receive rains for more than 20 days.
Many of China’s most important grain-producing regions like Hunan, Hubei and Henan provinces lie along the river. Hunan yields a major portion of China’s rice and with crippling heatwave, drought and the autumn harvest just 50 days away it is likely to impact production.
The grain yield in northeast China has suffered a crisis too in the form of devastating floods, the opposite of what southern China is facing for days.
Even poultry farms are hit. Reports say that hens are feeding less on hot days and as a result laying fewer eggs. The drop in supply of eggs in several provinces has made eggs costlier in recent days. According to the US Department of Agriculture, sustained exposure to extreme temperatures can exacerbate losses in production from animals, including eggs and milk.
China’s Sichuan province has started rationing power supply since 80 per cent of the region is dependent on hydropower. Residents are being favored over industries, in another blow to the economy. The local government has ordered industries in 19 out of 21 cities in the province to suspend production until Saturday (August 13) so that power supply could be prioritised for residents, according to a notice issued Sunday. Sichuan, the lithium hub, had to close factories triggering worries about supply of the essential component for batteries that run electronic devices.
Production had suffered earlier as well, when Chinese cities took measures to protect residents from the extreme weather and power crunch.
Provinces including Zhejiang, Jiangsu and Anhui also issued electricity curbs for industrial users, local media reported.
The official Xinhua news agency reported on Tuesday that in eastern China’s Jiangxi province 11,000 people had difficulty accessing drinking water while more than 140,000 hectares of crops were damaged.
The unprecedented heatwave has also impacted tourism adversely. The iconic 71-metre tall giant Buddha of Leshan located in Sichuan province closed off access to the statue’s feet area due to high temperature.
Chishui waterfall in Zunyi City in southwest China’s Guizhou province closed the spot to tourists since the upper stream of the waterfall had dried up.
Saving the harvest
China’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs has dispatched working groups to drought hit areas to protect the harvest, Xinhua reported on Sunday. As much as 75 per cent of China’s total grain output comes from the autumn crops.
The government will have to spend huge amounts of money on relief measures and make a concerted effort at protecting harvests or it risks plunging the economy into a deeper crisis.