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China’s farmers are struggling to keep crops alive during a year-long drought

China has experienced its driest summer in six decades this year. As a result, many farmers have been struggling to find crops that can resist the scorching heat.

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In southwestern China, farmer Gan Bingdong has seen hundreds of his persimmon trees wilt while they wait for rain during the hottest, driest summer in 60 years. This has resulted in a huge loss of revenue for his business.

Heat as high as 106 degrees Fahrenheit and a drought that has shrunk the giant Yangtze River and wilted crops across central China caused half of Gan’s vegetable crop to perish on his farm south of the industrial metropolis of Chongqing.

The remaining eggplants Gan has are barely the size of strawberries. His farm now has to rely on groundwater pumping because the reservoir next to it has dried up.

The excessive heat this year is frustrating, Gan said.

The national weather agency of China reported on Saturday that drought conditions have “significantly increased” across a swath of China extending from the densely populated east across central farming provinces into eastern Tibet.

From the provinces of Jiangsu and Anhui, north of Shanghai, to Chongqing and Sichuan, east of Tibet, the forecast called for high temperatures and no rain for at least three more days.

The reservoirs used to generate hydropower fell to half their normal levels, having the greatest impact in Sichuan, where factories have been shut down and offices and shopping malls told to turn off air conditioning.

Hydropower dams provide 80% of the electricity for the province of 94 million people.

For at least six days up until Saturday, production ceased at factories that make processor chips for smartphones, auto components, solar panels, and other industrial goods. While some predict a dip in output, others insist that customer supplies will remain unchanged.

President Xi Jinping, the country’s most powerful leader in decades, is preparing to try to break with tradition and award himself a third five-year term as leader at a meeting in October or November, and the shutdowns add to the challenges facing the ruling Communist Party.

China’s economic recovery was delayed in July as factory output and retail sales growth slowed following the closure of Shanghai and other industrial centers beginning in late March to combat virus outbreaks.

In the first six months of 2022, economic growth was 2.5% compared to the same period a year earlier, well below the yearly target of 5.5%.

There has been a significant transfer of electricity from other provinces to Sichuan, which is serviced by state-run utilities. To alleviate the water shortage in two villages close to Chongqing, authorities dispatched fire trucks to transport water.

The provincial government of Hubei, located east of Chongqing, reported on Saturday that 220,000 people in the province were in need of drinking water and that 17 million acres of crops had been destroyed. It has declared a drought emergency and begun distributing disaster aid.

The provincial disaster committee in Sichuan reported Saturday that 1.1 million acres of crops had been damaged and 16 thousand acres had been completely destroyed. The report estimated that 819,000 people were affected by the water crisis.

According to The Paper, a Shanghai-based newspaper, authorities in Chongqing have predicted that as many as one million people living in rural areas will experience water shortages.

According to farmer Gan, who lives south of Chongqing, he has lost about a third of his persimmon trees.

According to Gan, local farmers typically harvest rice in late August or September, but this year they hope to finish at least two weeks earlier.

Almost all of the water has been drained from the community reservoir next to Gan’s farm, leaving a pool in the middle of cracked soil. Leaks and rising temperatures caused water to evaporate rapidly after the water supply canals dried up. In order to use it for farming, Gan has begun to pump water from deep below the ground.

For example, “if the high temperature comes every year, we will have to find a solution such as to build up nets, daily irrigation, or to install a spray system to reduce the loss,” Gan said.

Meanwhile, flash floods have killed people in other regions.

According to the official Xinhua News Agency, which relied on information from local authorities, at least 23 people were killed and eight are still missing after flooding in the province of Qinghai in China’s northwest.

Six villages in Datong county, Qinghai, were reportedly affected by mudslides and overflowing rivers on Thursday night. Over 1,500 people had to abandon their homes.

Visit https://apnews.com/hub/asia-pacific for all of AP’s coverage of the Asia-Pacific.

The Los Angeles Times was the first to publish this story.