Published: 11:34, August 18, 2022 | Updated: 11:34, August 18, 2022
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Measures mitigate drought in Yangtze
By Hou Liqiang in Beijing, Zhu Lixin in Hefei, Zhu Lixin and Liu Kun in Wuhan

Reservoir releases and cloud-seeding tackle heat wave and lack of rainfall

People walk on the dried-up bank of the Yangtze River in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, on Wednesday. The water level has receded due to a lack of precipitation. (YANG BO / CHINA NEWS SERVICE)

The Ministry of Water Resources has promised to keep releasing water from the main reservoirs along the Yangtze River to help relieve the severe drought affecting Asia's longest watercourse, as the lingering heat wave and low levels of precipitation have disrupted water supplies and irrigation across the region.

So far this month, the ministry has discharged 5.3 billion cubic meters of water from reservoirs into the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze, Vice-Minister of Water Resources Liu Weiping told a news conference on Wednesday.

The amount of water is enough to meet the annual water demands of Beijing, a city of almost 22 million residents.

On average, about 4 billion cubic meters of water is consumed in the capital every year.

Given that it is a critical period for the growth of rice and other crops in the basin, the ministry began the new plan to discharge water on Tuesday, and is expected to add a further 1.5 billion cubic meters of water to the lower reaches of the river, Liu said.

Despite the severe drought, the minister stressed that there has been no major change to the amount of water stored in the basin's main reservoirs.

Though still experiencing its annual rainy season, precipitation in the region has declined from average levels for the period by 45 percent since July, he said, adding that water in the main body of the Yangtze and in two major lakes in its basin, Dongting and Poyang, has fallen to its lowest recorded level.

Aside from disrupting supplies to over 830,000 people and 160,000 livestock, the drought has affected the irrigation of over 820,000 hectares in eight provincial regions, including Hubei and Anhui provinces and Chongqing municipality, the vice-minister continued, but emphasized that the water supply to large and medium-sized irrigation zones and urban areas can currently be guaranteed.

Most affected farmland is located on the fringes of irrigated areas or in areas with no irrigation, he said. The majority of those whose water supplies have been interrupted depend on small reservoirs, mountain springs and creeks.

He said that compared with the same time last year, the amount of water stored in medium and large-sized reservoirs is only 10 percent less and that in general, the amount of water stored in the affected provincial regions is almost the same as last year.

Multiple provinces have been taking measures to cope with the drought.

The eastern province of Anhui conducted 48 ground-based cloud seeding operations in 31 urban districts and rural counties between Monday and Tuesday, according to Anhui Daily.

Over the two days, Anhui meteorological workers blasted nearly 1,000 salt flares into clouds, while rainfall varied from area to area.

At the request of the Hubei government, the China Meteorological Administration has dispatched a cloud-seeding airplane to the province.

On Monday and Tuesday, the airplane conducted three cloud seeding operations in Shiyan and Xiangyang cities, in addition to 159 ground-to-cloud operations.

During the same period, authorities in Chongqing fired 625 cannon shells and two rocket shells into clouds.

"The operation was conducted only in the city's northern areas, as other areas are waiting for suitable weather conditions," said Zhang Yixuan, an official at the Chongqing meteorological bureau.

The drought has resulted in a surge in demand for cloud-seeding materials, according to Xi'an Qinghua Civil Explosive Materials, a company based in Xi'an, Shaanxi province.

"Last year, the company's branch in Baise city in the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region only sold 170 rocket shells for cloud seeding nationwide, but it has already sold 1,054 so far this year," said Luan Ming, a manager at the branch.

He added that the majority of shells had been sold since July.

Firefighters in Huanggang, Hubei province have been dispatched on drought relief hundreds of times since Sunday.

Their tasks have included irrigating crops, fruit trees and urban green belts, and even cooling pigs being transported by truck along highways.

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