Bushfires increase pressure from drought in China

Bushfires have reportedly engulfed “several mountains” in Chongqing, a municipality in southern China’s Sichuan province, in recent days. Global Times reported Monday, noting that the wildfires have only exacerbated an ongoing heat wave and drought across most of China’s southern region that began in June.

The Chinese state-run newspaper describes Chongqing’s August 22 natural disaster:

The sweltering temperature, along with dry weather, has sparked forest fires in several districts of Chongqing since Thursday [August 18]. The government has dispatched 5,000 firefighters, police and volunteers to put out the fires; seven helicopters were also mobilized to join the operation, and the government has moved 1,500 people out of danger zones, according to the municipal public information department.

The bushfires were kept under control so far and no injuries were reported, the department said Monday [August 22].

Chongqing is a sprawling municipality that contains the city of Chongqing and several nearby cities. The urban center is home to an estimated 16.9 million residents and is located at the confluence of China’s Yangtze and Jialing rivers. The Yangtze is the third longest river in the world. It is also Asia’s longest river and the world’s longest river that flows entirely within one country.

Record high temperatures began to plague large parts of southern and central China in mid-June, triggering a severe heat wave that has continued unabated ever since. The extreme weather has caused drought in several Chinese provinces in the affected areas and subsequently threatened the viability of autumn grains grown in southern China at this time of year.

“[L]ate August [is] a critical period for growing autumn grains, which account for 75 percent of the country’s annual grain output, Chen Tao, chief forecaster of China’s National Meteorological Center (NMC) told Xinhua, China’s official state news agency, on Aug. 17.

Gan Bingdong stands in the pool of a community reservoir near his farm that nearly ran out after the retaining wall began to leak and hot weather and drought conditions accelerated the loss of water, in Longquan village in southwest China's Chongqing municipality, Saturday, Aug. 20.  , 2022. Drought conditions over a stretch of China from the densely populated east across central agricultural provinces to eastern Tibet have

Gan Bingdong stands in the pool of a community reservoir near his farm that nearly ran out after the retaining wall began to leak and hot weather and drought conditions accelerated the loss of water, in Longquan village in southwest China’s Chongqing municipality, Saturday, Aug. 20. , 2022. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

“Commercial crops in southern China, such as tea trees, citrus fruits and mangoes are fragile to heat waves,” he noted.

A farmer and resident of Chongqing’s Sangping County surnamed Lu said so Global Times Aug. 22 that his food crops, including sweet potatoes, had been adversely affected by the region’s recent drought. Lu said China’s central government, which directly administers Chongqing, “has sent water to his village in recent days, and built pipes to divert water in [upper reaches of the Yangtze] the river to help with irrigation.”

China’s ruling Communist Party claimed to have allocated approximately 300 million yuan ($44 million) for drought and disaster relief in central and southern China as of August 22.

The Global Times reported on Monday that this aid package included funding for the following actions:

For the autumn grain irrigation, reservoirs in the upper reaches of the Yangtse River are involved to cope with the drought and water shortage, supplying 1.48 billion cubic meters of water downstream [.]

To ensure grain production, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs sent out 25 working groups and 12 scientific and technological teams to help alleviate the drought [.]

The meteorological departments are monitoring the growth of harvest crops and will arrange the country’s high-performance aircraft at the right time to make it rain in various regions[.]

The Global Times owned by Folkets Dagbladwhich is the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee.

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