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Drought turns southern China into arid plain

May 7, 2010
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From The Guardian

It is hard to imagine a less fitting environment for a mollusc than the arid plain of Damoguzhen in south-west China.

There is not a drop of water in sight. The baked and fissured earth resembles an ancient desert. Yet shellfish are scattered here in their thousands; all so recently perished that shriveled, blackened bodies are still visible inside cracked, opened shells.

Far out of water, the aquatic animals are not the advance guard of evolutionary progress; but the victims of a drought that has devastated their habitat and now threatens the livelihoods of millions of people in surrounding regions. The Chinese government is so worried about the drought that it has embarked on a massive rain-making operation, involving firing thousands of shells and rockets into the sky to seed clouds.

Until last summer, Damoguzhen was home to a lake that stretched across a mile-wide expanse of water in Yunnan, a southern Chinese province famed for its mighty rivers, moist climate and beautiful views.

Today, it joins 310 reservoirs, 580 rivers and 3,600 pools that have been baked dry by a once-in-a-century drought that is evaporating drinking supplies, devastating crops and stirring up political tensions over dam construction, monoculture plantations and cross-border water management in south-east Asia. Linking specific weather events to human-caused climate change is impossible, but the drought is consistent with what climate scientists expect to see more of in future.

From The Guardian

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