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Originally published March 25 2009

Severe Droughts Now Hitting China: Food Production Plummets

by David Gutierrez, staff writer

(NaturalNews) A severe drought in northern China has left millions of people and animals without drinking water and dealt a major blow to the nation's grain crops.

Since October, lack of rainfall has affected more than 229 million acres of land in China's top six grain-producing provinces in the dry northern part of the country. An estimated 43 percent of China's wheat product is estimated to be affected by the drought, and the national Office of State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters says that 1.85 million stock animals and 3.7 million people in the region have been left without drinking water as a consequence.

The Henan Daily has called the drought that province's worst since 1951, and estimates that 63 percent of Henan's wheat crop is affected. Anhui farmers have already lost an estimated 1.6 billion yuan ($230 million) from the crisis, according to that province's government.

Government responses have ranged from the local -- with provinces planning to seed clouds in order to induce rain -- to the national, with the federal government designating 100 million yuan ($15 million) for farmer relief and pushing forward with a massive plan to divert billions of cubic meters of water from the Haihe, Huaihe, Yangtze and Yellow rivers to the country's north.

Environmentalists have warned that such a large-scale plan could have dangerous social and environmental consequences, and fails to address the underlying problem of unsustainable water use patterns. According to Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, the government is inaccurately blaming the water crisis solely on low rainfall, when in fact the problem stems more fundamentally from intensive agriculture, industry and coal mining in an arid region.

Northern China has half the country's arable land, much of its coal reserves and more than 40 percent of its population, but only 20 percent of its water, Ma noted.

"Water use in the region is not sustainable," he said. "We have seen rivers running dry because too much water has been diverted for farming and increasingly for urban and industrial use. We have seen the water table dropping steadily over the last three decades. Obviously this kind of drought adds insult to injury."

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