Wednesday, May 16, 2007

"Drought in China" - economic consequences

In the UK there is usually uproar in the press and the chattering classes about the dreaded "hosepipe ban". This is where the UK's nation of gardeners despair because they are unable to pump gallons of water onto their lawns to keep them looking nice and green. The government and the privatised water companies then get the blame.

Such hysteria is usually accompanied by TV images of reservoirs down by 30% from their highs.

A quick glance at the real economic and social costs of severe (or maybe not that severe yet) drought should put things in perspective. Moreover, the economic impact of a China suffering heavy climate change related costs may eventually be felt elsewhere. If Chinese growth begins to stall we can be confident that their will be repercussions.

China Drought Threatens Water Supply for Millions
BEIJING - A spring drought is intensifying across north China thanks to scarce rainfall and high temperatures, drying up reservoirs and farmland and threatening drinking water supplies for millions, state media said on Tuesday.

A top meteorological official warned last week that China was likely to be hit by more extreme weather, including typhoons, floods and drought, this year than at any time in the past decade because of global warming.

Among the hardest hit is Henan province, the country's bread basket, where rainfall since March has been down 70 percent on the average for the last two years, with no significant rain expected this month, Xinhua news agency said.

A total of 157 reservoirs in the northwestern region of Ningxia, or about 77 percent, and 186,000 wells had dried up, Xinhua said. Drought had damaged or destroyed 11 million hectares of crops and left 4.8 million people and as many cattle short of drinking water, it added.

In Hebei province, another major wheat- and corn-growing area, more than 200 reservoirs had dried up and 1.87 million hectares of farmland had been damaged or destroyed.

China suffered heavy agricultural weather-related losses last year, with parts of the southwest suffering the worst drought in more than a century last summer.

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