What has been described as a record-breaking drought has caused some rivers in China – including parts of the Yangtze – to dry up, affecting hydropower and halting shipping.
According to reports, the loss of water flow to China’s extensive hydropower system has sparked a “grave situation” in Sichuan, which gets more than 80% of its energy from hydropower.
The Yangtze is known to be the world’s third largest river, providing drinking water to more than 400 million Chinese people, and is the most vital waterway to China’s economy.
It is also crucial to the global supply chain, but this summer it has reached record-low water levels, with entire sections and dozens of tributaries drying up. Water flow on the Yangtze’s main trunk is more than 50% below the average of the last five years. Shipping routes in the middle and lower sections of the river have also closed, the SCMP reported.
The drought also forced major companies to suspend operations.
A nationwide drought alert had been issued on Friday as a long-running and severe heatwave in China’s heavily populated southwest was forecast to continue well into September.
Recall that the provincial government declared on Sunday that it was at the highest warning level of “particularly severe”, with water flow to Sichuan’s hydropower reservoirs dropping by half. The demand for electricity, meanwhile, has increased by 25% this summer, local media reported.
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The province suspended or limited power supply to thousands of factories and rationed public electricity usage due to the shortage last week, with Toyota, Foxconn and Tesla among companies reported to have suspended operations at some plants over the last fortnight.
Across the affected regions of China, authorities have been rushing to ensure water and power supply, as the region approaches harvest season for water-intensive crops like rice and soy.
The drought is said to have so far, affected at least 2.46 million people and 2.2m hectares of agricultural land in Sichuan, Hebei, Hunan, Jiangxi, Anhui and Chongqing. More than 780,000 people have needed direct government support because of the drought, according to China’s ministry of emergency management.
This is even as drinking water has been trucked into areas where residential supplies have completely dried up. High temperatures in July alone caused direct economic losses of 2.73bn yuan ($400m), affecting 5.5 million people, the emergency ministry said last week.
Story was adapted from the Guardian.