China rushes to ease drought and power cuts amid record heat wave

Ministry of Agriculture warns of impact on crops and livestock


August 18, 2022

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3 minute read

China is working to ease power shortages and bring more water to the drought-hit Yangtze River Basin as it battles a record heatwave by deploying relief funds, sowing clouds and developing new sources of supply, Reuters reported.

For more than two months, baking temperatures have disrupted crop growth, threatened livestock and forced industries in hydro-dependent regions of the southwest to close in order to ensure electricity supplies to homes.

China has repeatedly warned that it will face a proliferation of extreme weather events in the coming years as it tries to adapt to climate change and temperature rises that are likely to be more severe than ‘somewhere else.

The current extreme heat is likely to come from a “special case” of high pressure from a subtropical western Pacific high pressure stretching across much of Asia, said Cai Wenju, a researcher at the national institute. of Australian scientific research, the CSIRO.

On Wednesday, China’s southwest Sichuan Province said it would ration power to homes, offices and shopping malls, after previously ordering producers of metals and fertilizers with high energy intensity to limit their operations.

In what appears to be an official call to reduce electricity use, government offices have been told to set air conditioners to 26 degrees Celsius (79 Fahrenheit) and use more stairs instead of elevators, the provincial government-run Sichuan Daily said.

Fountains, light shows and commercial activities after dark should be suspended, he added.

Power shortages have also prompted several companies in the vast Chongqing region bordering Sichuan to say they will suspend production.

Chinese Vice Premier Han Zheng visited the State Grid Corporation on Wednesday and said more efforts were needed to ensure the supply of electricity to residents and key industries, and to prevent power outages, according to a state media report.

China should speed up the construction of key projects, improve electric load management and promote the joint operation of coal power and renewable energy, Han said.

SOARING TEMPERATURES

Hydroelectricity accounts for about 80% of Sichuan’s electric capacity, but dwindling water flows on the Yangtze and its tributaries led to a struggle to meet growing demand for air conditioning as temperatures soared to 40C (104F ) and beyond.

Average rainfall in Sichuan is 51 percent lower than in previous years, according to state news agency Xinhua, citing the provincial branch of State Grid.

Some reservoirs have dried up, after water in major rivers was cut in half, he said.

Drought across the Yangtze River basin is “negatively affecting” drinking water for rural people and livestock, as well as crop growth, the water resources ministry said in a notice.

He urged drought-affected regions to develop plans to maintain water supply with measures such as temporary transfer of water, development of new sources and extension of pipeline networks.

To boost downstream supply, China’s biggest hydropower project, the Three Gorges Dam, will increase water discharge by 500 million cubic meters over the next 10 days, it said on Tuesday. Water flows there this week were about half those of a year earlier.

Some livestock from drought-hit areas have been temporarily moved elsewhere, the finance ministry said this week, pledging 300 million yuan ($44.30 million) in disaster relief.

On Wednesday, the central province of Hubei became the latest to unveil an effort to induce rainfall, by sending planes to shoot the chemical silver iodide into clouds.

Other areas of the Yangtze also launched “cloud seeding” programs, but with too thin cloud cover, operations in some parched areas remained on hold.

China’s heatwave lasted 64 days, making it the longest since full records began in 1961, state media said, citing data from the National Climate Center.

As many as 262 weather stations recorded temperatures of 40°C (104°F) and above, also the highest of those tallies. Eight saw 44C (111F).

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