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Wednesday 27 September 2023 Dublin: 12°C
# Drought
China plans to use chemicals to generate rain and save harvest
Parts of the country are enduring a record-breaking drought.

CHINA HAS ANNOUNCED plans to try and protect its grain harvest from record-breaking drought by using chemicals to generate rain.

The hottest, driest summer since Chinese records began 61 years ago has wilted crops and left reservoirs at half their normal water level.

Factories in Sichuan province were shut down last week to save power for homes as air-conditioning demand surged, with temperatures soaring to 45C, and their closure may be extended for another week.

Agriculture Minister Tang Renjian said the coming 10 days is a “key period of damage resistance” for southern China’s rice crop, according to the Global Times newspaper.

Authorities will take emergency steps to “ensure the autumn grain harvest”, which is 75% of China’s annual total, Mr Tang said.
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They will “try to increase rain” by seeding clouds with chemicals and spray crops with a “water retaining agent” to limit evaporation, the agriculture ministry said on its website. It gave no details of where that will be done.

The disruption adds to challenges for the ruling Communist Party, which is trying to shore up sagging economic growth before a meeting in October or November when President Xi Jinping is expected to try to award himself a third five-year term as leader.

A reduced Chinese grain harvest would have a potential global impact. It would boost demand for imports, adding to upward pressure on inflation in the United States and Europe that is running at multi-decade highs.

The thousands of factories in Sichuan province that make solar panels, processor chips and other industrial goods are awaiting word on whether last week’s six-day shutdown will be extended.

A document that circulated on social media and said it was from the Sichuan Economic and Information Industry Department said the closure will continue until Thursday, but there has been no official confirmation.

The governments of Sichuan and neighbouring Hubei province say thousands of acres of crops are a total loss and millions more have been damaged.

Hubei’s government declared a drought emergency on Saturday and said it would release disaster aid. The Sichuan government said 819,000 people face a shortage of drinking water.

Sichuan has been hardest hit by drought because it gets 80% of its power from hydroelectric dams, and reservoirs are at just half of normal water levels. Local authorities earlier called on manufacturers to “leave power for the people”.

Offices and shopping centres in Sichuan were ordered to turn off lights and air-conditioning. The subway in Chengdu, the provincial capital, said it turned off thousands of lights in stations.

Meanwhile, other areas have suffered deadly flash floods.

Flooding in the north-western province of Qinghai killed at least 25 people and left eight missing, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

Mudslides and overflowing rivers late on Thursday hit six villages in Qinghai’s Datong county, the report said. Some 1,500 people were forced out of their homes.

The UN’s IPCC has said that global warming has caused an increase in the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events.

The world has already warmed by about 1 degree Celsius since pre-industrial times due to human activity, and the IPCC has warned that global heating is virtually certain to pass 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, probably within a decade.

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