China shuts factories, rations electricity as heat wave stifles economy
In Hubei, in central China, authorities said they would seed clouds to induce new rainfall after 4.2 million people were found to have been affected by the drought. The southwestern province Sichuan, which relies heavily on hydropower, also ordered factories in 19 cities and prefectures to halt operations until Saturday to preserve electricity for the public.
The temperature in a neighboring district hit a record 45 degrees Celsius, or 113 Fahrenheit, China’s Meteorological Administration said Thursday. The Finance Ministry also pledged this week to distribute about $44 million in disaster relief to affected communities.
The crisis follows years of expert warnings that China, the world’s largest emitter of carbon dioxide, would face extreme weather events as a result. Beijing has presented itself as a leading force in tackling climate change but has also continued to build coal-fired power plants that produce carbon dioxide, mercury and other harmful emissions.
Jin Xiandong, a spokesman for the National Development and Reform Commission, said on Tuesday that the lack of hydropower output has increased the country’s reliance on coal.
The Three Gorges Dam, China’s biggest hydropower project, said it would increase water discharges in the coming days to aid downstream basins, Reuters reported.
China’s summer floods and heat waves fuel plans for a changing climate
In Hubei, the province’s emergency department also said this week that nearly 400,000 hectares of crops have already been damaged and that more than 150,000 people now have only limited access to drinking water. The local government will also attempt to seed clouds, a process that involves shooting silver iodide rods into the sky to kick-start fresh rainfall.
But in some regions along the Yangtze, cloud coverage appeared too thin for seeding, CNN reported.
China has practiced weather manipulation in the past, including at the 2008 Beijing Olympics when 21 government-run stations fired rockets at clouds above the open-air Bird’s Nest stadium to stop rainfall during the Opening Ceremonies.