The Southwestern province of Yunnan hasn’t seen a drop of rain since the commence of the New Year (on both the Western and Eastern calendars). Hit by both a dry autumn and an unexpectedly warm winter, the entire area is now in the throes of a deadly drought, one so bad that some have resorted to eating grass as a desperate means of acquiring water. National media now seems to blame it on the old phenomenon of ‘El Nino’. Pictures on the news show apocalyptic images, with dry cracks running deep along the dirty lawns, parks and villages that make up this naturally battered landscape.
Stories flood in to news agencies across the country of internationally unknown cities like Qixingcun, whose citizens can only dream of bottled water and baths. It is called the worst of the century, leaving people to fear the future as the despairingly trek the two or more kilometers to find one of the few remaining sources of water in their area.
The Chinese government has reported that more than 60 million people have been affected. 11 million livestock as well are short on water. To the foreign eye, this may seem shocking, sad, but yet ultimately irrelevant to their everyday lives. To the men and women of Yunnan, this is the bread and butter of the average household. The echo of the drought is bouncing off more walls with each passing dry day. Hydroelectric resources are drying up as well, leaving citizens isolated in the dark. Left with no options, families have resorted to drinking dirty groundwater that is loaded with bacteria, causing preventable illnesses to spread amongst the province. These are avoidable consequences that have been forced upon the people in the wake of a lack of government aid.
It is a cold, dark nightmare these people face, as they watch their social, personal, familial, and even agricultural environments crumble one by one, with nothing they can do but wait (and maybe even pray) for rain.
Please note that the accompanying photo was taken from an article in the China Daily newspaper, as I have not been able to visit Yunnan and take photos for myself. Thank you to the photographer. Please see the accompanying news article for more information here.