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China Focus: Major rice-producing province revs up drought relief efforts

Despite persisting drought, Cao Liming, a 50-year-old farmer in east China’s Jiangxi Province, is still looking forward to a bumper harvest this year.

Cao contracts about 12.7 hectares of farmland in Zhouxi Township of Duchang County, where the irrigation water source relies mainly on Poyang Lake, China’s largest freshwater lake.

However, starting July, a combination of hot weather and low precipitation has swept across south China. Poyang Lake officially entered this year’s dry season on Aug. 6, the earliest date since records started in 1951 and 69 days earlier than the average starting date between 2003 and 2021.

Drought conditions have reduced the water area of the lake by around 75 percent. As of 10 a.m. Thursday, the total water area of the lake registered 737 square km, 2,203 square km less than that of the same period last year, according to the Jiangxi provincial water resources department.

Jiangxi is one of China’s 13 major rice-producing areas, and the area around Poyang Lake is the province’s main grain-producing area. To stabilize grain yields, strengthening water diversion and irrigation has become a priority task.

Standing on the embankment of the Xiaoyang farming area, which is adjacent to Poyang Lake, Yu Guopeng, head of Zhouxi Township, noted that the water surface of the lake had retreated to about 300 meters away, leaving water plants and riverbeds exposed.

“When Poyang Lake has rich waters, we directly pump water to the irrigation pumping station and then to paddy fields,” said Yu. “Now we have to dig canals in the dry riverbeds to divert the lake water first to the canal and then to the station.”

“We spent five days digging the canal and then drew the lake water to it with eight pumps running day and night,” said Yu. “The solution has guaranteed irrigation water for more than 333 hectares of farmland in the Xiaoyang farming area.”

Zhouxi Township is just an epitome of the province’s overall efforts to combat the drought. Weather forecasts show that heatwaves will continue to blaze across Jiangxi in the coming week, while the water level of Poyang Lake is expected to continue its downward trend.

Many areas in Jiangxi stored water in advance to cope with potential drought. “Despite suffering severe drought, we have been working to ensure sufficient irrigation water. We expect a bumper harvest,” said Cao.
Source: Xinhua

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