Victims Call China’s Drought a Man-Made Disaster

March 25, 2010 3:55 pm Last Updated: October 1, 2015 8:31 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)
The continued drought in Southwest China has affected more than 50 million people in the provinces of Yunnan, Guangxi, Sichuan, Guizhou, and the city of Chongqing. Discontent over the artificial causes of the drought, sky-high food prices, and unsatisfactory disaster relief has increased. Meanwhile, the media continues to praise the relief efforts, to the annoyance of many.

Mr. Mo from the city of Wuzhou in Guangxi Province believes the drought is a result of soil erosion caused by wasteful mining.

“Some gold mine companies took over the mountains and emptied them inside out,” he said. “ Trees were uprooted, and there was nothing to hold the soil.” He contends the disaster is the result of man-made rather than natural causes, and relates it to a problem with the political system which allows collusion between the government and big business. “The peasants are furious,” he added.

Mr. Mo said that the water shortage is very serious in his area, and the amount of water delivered by the authorities was not even close to being enough. There wasn’t even enough water for showers and laundry, let alone for farming.

“There is a shortage of drinking water now which the authorities have not been able to resolve. They delivered tap water from the city once every few days. We have to wait in line in order to get a very limited amount. Domestic water shortage is a problem now, let alone water for farming. I have never seen such a serious drought before.”

Even Wild Herbs Cannot Survive

It is reported that the drought has driven up food prices in Yunnan Province with the price of vegetables soaring 39 percent. The price index in Kunming, the capital, ranked third-highest among all provincial capitals in January and February.

A resident in Fuyuan County of Yunnan Province said, “The authorities did not provide any compensation to the drought victims. The cracks in the field are huge—even wild herbs cannot survive.”

Another resident said, “Farmers had to sell their cattle cheaply because they have no water to raise them.”

Mr. Xiao from Yunnan Province said the situation there is very serious, and disaster relief efforts have been far from satisfactory. Nevertheless, the media sang the praises of the authorities’ hard work, as usual, which antagonized the people.

Mr. Xiao said,“The water situation in the entire Yunnan Province is precarious. Some areas are in a state of emergency, and some areas even have no water at all. The government propaganda was for show. A village had not been provided with water for many days, and then the people’s army delivered water to them, making the people very happy and grateful. What really happened was that the army withheld the rescue goods all that time to make the people miserable. When the army finally delivered the goods, the residents were obviously grateful, which made a good piece of propaganda in praise of the government.”

Water Severely Rationed

Fuyuan County residents also said that there has been no tap water since the end of 2009, that their rationed water supply has not been steady, and that they have had to fetch water themselves from a village three miles away.

A resident said, “Each family is given four water tickets every two weeks and each ticket entitles the bearer to 100 kg (about 26 gallons) of water, which is not enough for daily use at all, especially for a large family of six or seven. So we have to fetch water from somewhere else. I haven’t taken a shower for a few months.”

According to weather reports, there is no sign of precipitation in the next ten days in the drought area, and the forest fire index remains high.

The Yunnan Province Forest Fire Management Headquarters reported there have been 390 forest fires as of mid- March this year, destroying 2,047 hectares (about 830 acres) of forest. The disaster area was 20 percent larger than that of last year.

Mr. Mu of Chongqing said that the climate in Chongqing has been abnormal for several years. He believes it’s related to the the Three Gorges Dam Project.

Mr. Mu said, “We have drought every year. I live in an urban area and haven’t seen any measures being taken. The peasants are the most disadvantaged group of people.”

According to Chinese media, the Southwest region of China has experienced low rainfall and high temperatures since the fall of 2009. They have been hit by a drought rarely seen in history. Yunnan Province, Guangxi Province, Sichuan Province, Guizhou Province and Chongqing City were hit by a drought rarely seen in history, causing severe economic losses.

According to statistics as of March 17, 43,486,000 hectares (about 17.6 million acres) of crops were affected by the drought, among which 940,000 hectares (about 380,566 acres) yielded zero production, causing a direct economic loss of 19 billion yuan (US$2.8 billion).

Read the original Chinese article.