Wednesday, April 17, 2013

What happens when Asia's 'water tower' dries up?

Coco Liu in After photographing Black Dragon Lake here for eight years, He Jiaxin knows of more places where he can get the lake to mirror the majesty of its surrounding mountains than anyone else. But this year, he has a problem: The lake has disappeared.

...Lijiang is hardly alone. Similar situations are happening across other parts of Yunnan province, which usually has more rain than half of China's regions. But it has experienced extremely low rainfall for the past three years. In the first quarter of this year, Yunnan's average rainfall dropped by 70 percent, indicating the start of the drought's fourth consecutive year, according to the water resources department in the region.

As national demand for Yunnan's hydroelectricity and other products keeps rising, the region is losing one of its most abundant resources -- water -- to produce them. The province is scrambling to adopt measures that would ease water stress, with mixed results. Meanwhile, its fast-growing population and economy are adding more water security problems.

... On the provincial level, the drought has already baked millions of acres of farmland over the past three years, leaving many farmers with nothing to harvest. The financial disaster has spread to businesses that trade and process agricultural goods. For instance, many rubber factories in Yunnan reportedly shut down due to insufficient raw materials. This, combined with declining revenue in other industries, has caused a direct economic loss of about $4.2 billion in Yunnan since the drought started in 2009, local media have reported....

Black Dragon Lake in wetter times, shot by Gisling, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license 

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