Drought drying out Poyang Lake

Updated: 2012-01-05 07:36

By Wang Qian and Jin Zhu (China Daily)

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Drought drying out Poyang Lake

The bed of Poyang Lake, the country's largest freshwater lake, is exposed on Tuesday because of the continuous drought. [Photo/Xinhua]

BEIJING - A continued shortage of rain has dried Poyang Lake in Jiangxi province, China's largest freshwater lake, to less than 188 square kilometers, about 5 percent of its former area.

According to Poyang Lake hydrologic bureau statistics, released on Wednesday, the lake received 974 mm of precipitation in 2011, about 30 percent less than the annual average since record-keeping began.

"The rainfall shortage is the main reason for the shrinking of Poyang Lake," a bureau official who declined to be named told China Daily on Wednesday.

A report made by the Changjiang Water Resources Commission said the lake's water level will often be low in the future, threatening its ecological system and the economic development of the lake area, Outlook Weekly, a news weekly run by Xinhua News Agency, reported in December.

Rui Xiaofang, a professor at the College of Hydrology and Water Resources at Hohai University, told China Daily that the Yangtze River entered a drought in 2000 and no one knows how long it will last.

People who live near Poyang Lake have become accustomed to seeing the lakebed partially exposed and fishing boats stranded in the past 10 years .

Since 2001, fishermen have had less than three months a year to fish because the water level has been too low most of the time, Hu Jinxiu, head of the Le'an village in Poyang county, was quoted as saying in Outlook Weekly.

An official from the provincial fishery bureau who gave his name as Yi told China Daily the lake is almost dried up, severely threatening the livelihood of local fishermen.

To restore the fish population in the lake, local authorities have imposed a three-month fishing ban in March every year since 2002.

Yi said the lake was stocked with a large number of fish fry during the fishing ban in 2011, in the hope of sustaining the population and aiding fishermen.

"But the hope has already vanished as most of the immature fish died because of severe water shortage that started in June last year," he said.

At present, there are about 10,000 fishing boats on the lake. The average annual per capita income of fishermen fell to 1,000 yuan ($160) in 2011 from 3,000 to 4,000 yuan in previous years, local official figures show.

Drought drying out Poyang Lake 

The bed of Poyang Lake, the country's largest freshwater lake, is exposed on Tuesday because of the continuous drought. [Photo/Xinhua] 

Meanwhile, water supplies in nearby cities are under pressure due to the shrinking lake.

Sun Xiaoshan, deputy director of the Jiangxi flood control and drought relief headquarters, told China News Service that because of the low water level of the lake, it was becoming difficult to pump water to some cities and the Wan'an reservoir will increase water discharges upstream to ensure the water level downstream.

Poyang Lake, connecting to the country's longest Yangtze River, provides a habitat for half a million migratory birds.

As the fish populations die out, the migratory birds lose their food source.

The Poyang Lake National Nature Reserve Authority plans to put 165 million fish fry in the lake to guarantee the food supply for the birds.