Human Error Has Worsened Effects of Drought, Expert Says

April 6, 2010 9:55 pm Last Updated: October 1, 2015 8:26 pm

Water buffalo in a dried up pond in Shilin County, Yunnan Province, China. (Getty Images)
Water buffalo in a dried up pond in Shilin County, Yunnan Province, China. (Getty Images)
Chinese authorities recently dispatched teams to southwestern China to drill emergency wells for a population of 16 million people in dire need of viable drinking water. The drought, unabated since July 2009, affects more than 50 million people in the region.

Dr. Wang Weiluo is a Chinese land-planning expert who now works in Germany. He told The Epoch Times in a March 30 interview that a series of wrong decisions made by the regime have worsened the damage created by the drought. Dr. Wang is the author of “36 Calculations on the Yangtze River's Three Gorges Dam.”

He said the region of southwestern China is normally resistant to drought because there is over 50 percent forest growth. When the current drought began, relief efforts were delayed for six months to avoid “unpleasant” topics from coinciding with the National Congress sessions held during March.

By way of contrast, when the February 2009 drought began in northern China, the regime immediately issued a level one drought warning. The difference, according to Dr. Wang: the regime used the opportunity to divert attention from highly sensitive social issues—the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, the 10th anniversary of the persecution of Falun Gong, and the unemployment of 30 million immigrant workers.

But this year, by the time the National Congress sessions were concluded, some major rivers had already dried up.

A Man-Made Disaster

Dr. Wang said that the Office of State Flood Control and Drought Relief routinely orders all of the nation’s more than 80,000 reservoirs to be emptied every May in preparation for the flood season, and the dams remain at the minimum water level until September.

They do that, he said, because more than a third of China’s reservoirs are below safety standards. The shoddily constructed dams would not be able to withstand the pressure. But last year, there was minimal rainfall since September, so the reservoirs were already quite low.

Another significant factor that has worsened drought conditions, according to Dr. Wang, is the over-use of groundwater.

He said that surface water is utilized in normal, non-drought periods, and groundwater serves as a reservoir during periods of drought.

But since China’s surface water is severely polluted, precious groundwater has been commonly utilized in non-drought periods. When a drought occurs, people dig deeper and deeper for water.

However, there are serious consequences: That deep groundwater may take hundreds of years to recoup.

Dr. Wang concluded by saying that the current drilling of deep wells in the southwest is now depleting resources that should be held in reserve for future periods of extended drought.

“They [China] had rich surface water, but it has been polluted. Now they are using up the water reserved for real calamities,” Wang remarked.

“This is not a natural disaster—this is definitely a man-made disaster.”

Read the original Chinese article.