China Battles Worst Drought in 60 Years

Beijing introduces emergency measures as country dries out
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 6, 2009 7:46 AM CST
A woman checks rapeseed plants withered due to lack of water in China's Henan province Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2009. China declared an emergency Thursday.   (AP Photo/Color China Photo)
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(Newser) – The Chinese government has released $44 million in emergency funds to battle a worsening drought that has left parts of the country drier than at any time since 1951. The drought has threatened wheat crops and livestock and portends rising food prices—at a moment when China is already facing growing unemployment. Beijing has not seen rain for 100 days, while the breadbasket region of central and eastern China is parched, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Climatologists point to multiple reasons for the severe drought, from global warming and pollution to China's rapid urbanization. Beijing is anxious to mitigate any short-term woes, and has promised to subsidize the rural poor if food becomes scarce. But it has also begun work on a giant series of canals to divert water to drier areas—a plan attacked by critics as environmentally harmful.