BEIJING - Meteorological authorities of southwestern Yunnan province are gearing up to induce more artificial rain as light to moderate rain was forecast to sweep the drought-stricken province from west to east for three days from Saturday.
The light to moderate rain would increase humidity in the air, providing a good chance for inducing artificial rain to ease the worst drought in 100 years, said a weatherman with the provincial observatory.
But the limited rainfall will hardly break the drought, and the local governments also plan to dig 1,100 wells in the two months through to mid-May to ease the water shortages of 1 million residents.
The drought has ravaged southwest China for months, affecting 61.3 million residents and 5 million hectares of crops in Guizhou, Yunnan, Sichuan, Chongqing, and Guangxi, the Ministry of Civil Affairs said Wednesday.
The drought has affected 18 million residents and 11.7 million heads of livestock in the region and caused direct economic losses of 23.7 billion yuan ($3.5 billion), the ministry said in a statement.
In hardest-hit Yunnan province, direct agricultural economic losses are estimated at 17 billion yuan.
Lingering dry weather has affected over 80 percent of all planting areas in Yunnan, a region producing fresh flowers, rapeseed, sugar cane, tobacco and tea. In addition, 8.2 million residents are short of food.
Prices of fresh flowers in many cities have risen by up to 50 percent.
Prices of vegetables in Guangxi have more than doubled even as local authorities send extra supplies to curb the price rises.
Residents are also worried about sharp price hikes in food later in the year and next year as agricultural output is set to decline sharply.
In Guizhou, the country's leading liquor producer, Kweichow Moutai Co said its production is normal as the drought has not dried up Chishui River, the water source for its products.
Several smaller liquor producers located near Kweichow Moutai in Moutai township have halted production because of the drought.