China’s Largest Fresh Water Lake Dries Up

Work workers are excavating tunnels to maintain water flow to one of the nation’s major rice-growing regions as China’s largest freshwater lake shrinks to only 25% of its normal size due to a severe drought.

Otherwise, irrigation canals to surrounding farmlands had been shut off due to Poyang Lake’s severe fall in the landlocked province of Jiangxi in the southeast of China. Due to the intense heat during the day, the personnel can only operate using excavators to dig trenches after midnight, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

Much of southern China is experiencing devastation due to a strong heat wave. In the southwest, mountain fires fueled by high temperatures have forced 1,500 people to evacuate, and enterprises have been told to limit operations as hydroelectric facilities lower their output due to the drought.

The extreme heat and drought have wilted crops and shrunk rivers including the giant Yangtze, disrupting cargo traffic.

Fed by China’s major rivers, Poyang Lake averages about 3,500 square kilometers (1,400 square miles) in high season, but has contracted to just 737 square kilometers (285 square miles) in the recent drought.

As determined by water level, the lake officially entered this year’s dry season Aug. 6, earlier than at any time since records began being taken in 1951. Hydrological surveys before then are incomplete, although it appears the lake may be at or around its lowest level in history.

The lake serves as a significant resting place for migrating birds on their way south for the winter in addition to providing water for agriculture and other uses.

Though scientists haven’t completed the intricate calculations and computer simulations needed to say with certainty, the heat is probably related to human-caused climate change.

According to Maarten van Aalst, head of the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre in the Netherlands, “the heat is unquestionably record-breaking and unquestionably made worse by human-caused climate change.” “Drought usually makes things more complicated.”