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AP PHOTOS: Drought changes the landscape in southwest China

AP PHOTOS: Drought changes the landscape in southwest China

Written by Mark Schiffelbein

August 24, 2022 GMT

CHONGQING, China (AP) – Partially exposed river beds due to drought are a rare sight that turns into an urban beach at dusk to escape the sweltering heat. Agricultural land hidden by the sun Leaving rice stalks yellow, the famous chili plants almost all fruitless, the cabinets turned into a puddle of water and cracked earth.

The landscape of Chongqing, a megacity that also includes surrounding farmland and steep, picturesque mountains, has been transformed by an unusually long and severe heat wave and accompanying drought..

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Chinese meteorologists call it the nation The most powerful heat wave Since record keeping began in 1961, based on its density, geographic area and duration. Now in its third month, it has surpassed the previous record of 61 days in 2013. Temperatures exceed 40°C (104°F) in cities and villages across southern China. The southwestern city of Chongqing was hit particularly hard

In Longquan Village in the rolling hills south of urban Chongqing, a farmer walks through cracked mud at the bottom of a community tank that was once full of water. There was a leak in the retaining wall of the tank a few months ago, and with the heat and drought left only a puddle of water a few meters (yards) away.

To the north, Li Siming walks through his fields whistling the rice plants of Muir Town as the sound of jets landing at a nearby airport echoes off the hillsides. With the supply limited, the communal water that would normally go to his rice crops was diverted to orchids instead.

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“We pray to God, but God does not rain. We ask the local government, but the government will not provide us with water,” he told me.

He uses expensive tap water to irrigate his fields. He estimates that his harvest of 3 hectares (7 acres) of land would be 400 kilograms (880 lb) of rice – less than a third of his usual harvest. Farmers moved the harvest by half a month so that the crops did not dry out, but before the growth of the grain was completed.

Behind heatwaves in both China and Europe is a high-pressure ridge parked over western Russia this summer. It’s possible that the extreme heat is linked to human-caused climate change – although scientists haven’t yet done the calculations and computer simulations to say this with certainty.

The Jialing River, a tributary of the Yangtze, has shrunk in some places to less than half the width of its channel through the heart of Chongqing. Residents and visitors make their way through the rocks on the exposed river bed to take selfies and catch a glimpse of the remaining flow of water. At dusk, a group of uniformed officers use loudspeakers to order the crowd to return to the higher ground in the adjacent park.

Along the Yangtze River, which also runs through downtown Chongqing, families and children play in the shallow water near the base of the bridge’s exposed support column. Muddy lines along the shaft more than 8 meters (25 ft) above their heads indicate former river levels. As it gets dark, a woman, lit by her smartphone, sits on a rocky outcrop that is usually submerged in the middle of a river.

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Associated Press video producer Olivia Zhang contributed to this report.