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China declares first ever drought emergency amid intense heatwave

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By Euronews
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This community reservoir in Chongqing has all but evaporated
This community reservoir in Chongqing has all but evaporated   -   Copyright  AP Photo

China has declared its first drought emergency of the year amid fears that a period of exceptionally hot and dry weather will lead to significant shortages of water. 

The hottest, driest summer since Chinese records began 61 years ago has wilted crops and left reservoirs at half of their normal water level. 

Factories in Sichuan province were shut down last week to save power for homes as air-conditioning demand surged, with temperatures as high as 45 degrees Celsius.

Meanwhile, authorities say an estimated 1 million people in rural areas will face water shortages.

The coming 10 days is a “key period of damage resistance” for southern China’s rice crop, said Agriculture Minister Tang Renjian, according to the newspaper Global Times.

Authorities will take emergency steps to “ensure the autumn grain harvest,” which is 75% of China’s annual total, Tang said Friday, according to the report.

Drought conditions across a swath of China from the densely populated east across central farming provinces into eastern Tibet have "significantly increased," the national weather agency said Saturday.

Some areas of central China have declared the summer planting season a total loss.

The giant Yangtze River serves as a lifeline for farms and businesses in the area, but after months of little to no rain and soaring temperatures, it is slowly disappearing.

Gan Bingdong’s farm has lost half its vegetable crop. He says he now pumping groundwater to irrigate his land, but it is not enough to keep his crop alive.

He uses 6 or 7 tons of water daily for his vegetable crops.

Farmers in the area usually harvest rice in late August or September but plan to finish at least two weeks early before plants die, according to Gan.

"If the high temperature comes every year, we will have to find a solution such as to build up nets, daily irrigation or to install a spray system to reduce the loss," Gan said.