Three Gorges Probe

Flood, drought fears in a haywire climate


February 23, 2007

China is on alert this year for the extremes of natural disasters. Water Resources Vice Minister E Jingping has warned local governments of the increasing possibility of floods in major rivers, and droughts elsewhere.

E, also secretary-general of China’s Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters, said: “Major Chinese rivers, including the Yangtze and Yellow rivers, have not seen serious floods in recent years. It increases the possibility of flood disasters this year based on the law of averages.”

The warning comes at a time when drought is plaguing Chinese rivers. The middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze have experienced a sharp fall in levels, affecting water supply for industrial and agricultural use. Water flow into the major rivers and lakes has dropped by 40 percent on average, with that of Poyang Lake plummeting by 60 percent. E urged local authorities to take concrete measures to prepare for floods and droughts in different parts of China in 2007. Drinking water safety for urban and rural residents must be guaranteed.

The demand for water supply in industrial production should also be guaranteed, he said. Meanwhile, Chinese meteorologists have warned that in the 21st century the country will become increasingly warmer and wet. A recent report by the China Meteorological Administration said that in the past 50 years, the nation’s surface temperature rose 0.22 degrees Celsius for every 10 years on average, higher than the increases in global and Northern Hemisphere barometers. Compared with the average temperature during the 30 years between 1961 and 1990, China’s yearly mean reading will possibly rise 1.3-2.1 degrees by 2020; 1.5-2.8 degrees by 2030; 2.3-3.3 degrees by 2050; and 3.9-6.0 degrees by 2100.

 The report also said that more rain is a given. By 2020, the national average annual precipitation will increase two to three percent; by 2050, five to seven percent; and by 2100, 11-17 percent. In the next four to five years, the chances of extremely strong rainfall in east China will be four to six times that of the 1980s and 1990s, and there will be more frequent and stronger typhoons in coastal areas, the report said.

In the coming 100 years, extreme weather events will probably increase. Drought areas will expand and desertification will be more serious, while glaciers on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and the Tianshan Mountains will recede more quickly.

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