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article imageChina digging wells to save wheat crops, drought impact felt

By Michael Krebs     Feb 13, 2011 in Environment
Feeling the impact from a widespread drought, China - the world's most populous country and largest global wheat producer - is now forced to dig wells to protect what is left of its wheat crops.
Facing a broad drought that has so far affected 17 million acres of crops, China has begun digging 1,350 wells in an effort to save its crucial wheat production, according to an MSNBC report.
China is the largest wheat producer in the world, and its population - also the largest in the world - relies on wheat-based noodles as a basic food staple.
The regions impacted by the persistent drought are considered the most productive farming areas in the country, and China plans to spend $2 billion to fight drought and to preserve their wheat crops.
Shortages in Chinese wheat have sent global wheat prices considerably higher.
"It's hard to know when it will rain. We must prepare for the worst and do our best to combat the drought to ensure a good harvest," Wen Jiabao, China's premiere, said, according to The National.
The drought is expected to continue into spring, and traditional efforts to stem the losses have had limited impact.
“China still faces an arduous task of fighting drought,” Chen Lei, deputy director at the State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters, said in a website posting, according to Bloomberg. “Enhanced efforts of irrigation, recent rain and snowfalls helped curb the spreading of drought in some winter- wheat growing areas.”
Chronic water shortage in China, coupled now with the nation's severe drought - the worst to hit China in 60 years - has elevated overarching water security questions, particularly in neighboring India, the world's second most populous country. The drought presents questions also on sustainable energy solutions and infrastructure projects.
“The next Five-Year Plan is crucial in terms of whether China can succeed in transforming its economy from the current [energy and consumption] intensive model to a low-carbon model,” Yang Ailun of Greenpeace China told The Hindu. “Energy security is crucial for water security too, as coal uses a lot more water and pollutes far more than other energy sources.”
3 million people in China are currently without adequate drinking water, and the Chinese government acknowledged its need for a more modern irrigation system and for significant investments in those areas.
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