China is currently experiencing the most severe drought and heatwave since national records began in 1961. As of last Sunday, the drought had affected at least 2.46 million people and about 2.2 million hectares of agricultural land in nine provinces along the Yangtze River basin, including Sichuan and the neighboring metropolis Chongqing, according to the Ministry of Water Resources.
Last Thursday, the national observatory issued its orange alert – the second highest level in a four-tier colour-coded warning system – for drought across multiple provinces. The drought has exposed the vulnerability of the agriculture sector to climate change.
Li Guoxiang, a researcher from the rural development institute at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that many of the areas affected by the drought were not equipped with irrigation facilities: “It’s because rainfall was relatively abundant in the Yangtze River basin in the past. Local agricultural irrigation mainly relied on surface water and there was a lack of attention paid to the irrigation facilities.”