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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Devastating drought becoming a major challenge for Chinese Economy

(By Razib Ahmed)

The ongoing drought is taking a devastating turn in China. Many parts of western and northern China have been badly affected by the prolonging drought and the suffering of the people is only increasing day by day. Normal life in Yunnan, Gansu, Ningxia, Inner Mongolia, and Hebei provinces has come to a halt and the farmers have almost lost their harvest. When I said 'prolonging drought' it does not mean merely that the drought is going on for 3-4 months but in some places of China the drought has been going on for nearly two years. In some parts of Ningxia, there has not been any significant rainfall for the last 20 months. Shortage of food is looming over many parts of Western and Northern China. However, I feel that the worst thing to be worried is the shortage of water. Many huge reservoirs and wells have dried up because of low or no rainfall. According to The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), many people are now forced to take 2 meals a day instead of 3 meals.

I went through the report of FAO and I am quoting here from the report:
'The affected areas are among China’s poorest regions, with 2004 per capita annual incomes of rural households of $227 in Yunnan, $226 in Gansu, and $283 in Ningxia. Over half of rural households live under the poverty line and have limited access to food.
The drought will have a serious impact on vulnerable groups, particularly in affected mountain areas, where there are few alternative sources of income. Rural populations, including elementary school children in Ningxia, have reportedly reduced the number of daily meals from three to two, according to the FAO alert."

(Source: http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2006/1000294/index.html)

The large cities, where industrial activities are carried out are yet to suffer badly. However, the capital Beijing is suffering from shortage of water and the government is trying to fight with this problem. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has visited the drought affected regions.

If the drought continues for another few months then the Chinese economy will face a challenging time next year. The Chinese government seems to be taking the drought situation very seriously and soon we will see the state machinery supporting the people in drought affected areas. Fighting with the shortage of food will perhaps not be difficult for the Chinese government as the country can afford to import food from aboard. However, fighting with shortage of water will be a mammoth task for the government as you cannot simply import water. In the rural areas, people depend on agriculture for their livelihood and thus the drought may have a negative effect in the Economic growth of the country this time.

Neighboring Pakistan is also suffering from drought and this winter Pakistan saw 40% below average rainfall and 20-25% less snowfall. China's condition is not better than it either. I just hope that the Chinese government comes forward very generously to support the farmers and villages.

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