Worsening drought ravages countries in Asia, Latin America

15:57, March 26, 2010      

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Of late, El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon has brought rare, devastating drought to countries in Latin America and Asia. Dry spells impact the regional farming industry and the livelihood of people in numerous Latin American and Asian nations, and people in some of these countries are currently even facing serious drinking water shortages.

The ENSO phenomenon is definitely a climate pattern that occurs across the tropical Pacific Ocean on an average of five years.

A number of drought-hit countries have gone all out to build reservoirs, introduce artificial rainfall, spread the related knowledge to the public to cope with drought, adopt new farming technologies and take other related measures, so as to reduce their losses to the maximum.


Honduran Congress on Wednesday, March 23, declared a state of emergency against drought and famine. Since November 2009, Honduras has had a scarce precipitation with ensuing crop failures in ten of its provinces, including Copan and La Paz provinces. At present, only half of the 1.7 million residents in the country have access to drinking water, while other residents have turned to water supplies from water trucks sent by government departments or private firms. The ENSO phenomenon will dominate weather in the summer, the Honduran Meteorological Department has forecasted. With the arrival of the summer, dry spells could be more serious. In addition, unbridled tree-felling, deforestation and desertification have also been attributed mainly to the current drought.

The Honduran government has planned and is exploring into feasibilities to build two reservoirs, so as to meet the people's demands for drinking water; the government is also said to have begun working in cooperation with the United Nations Food Program for the provision of food for some 50,000 drought-inflicted families.


Since December last year, lingering dry spells have affected 23 provinces in the Philippines, where meteorologists or weather experts say that ENSO phenomenon could last till the end of June.

Farming is one of the major industries in the Philippines, and its output accounts for 20 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP). However, drought has negatively impacted its agricultural production, and it is expected to cost a loss of more than 3.77 billion pesos (A US dollar equals to approximately 47 pesos). According to statistics released by the Philippine Department of Agriculture (PDA), the national rice output will reduce by 4.1 percent, and corn production will cut by 15.2 percent in the first quarter of 2010.

The PDA also noted that the Philippine government would set aside 1.5 billion pesos from the 4.5 billion-peso Agricultural Loan Guarantee Fund to finance agriculture loan projects. The government has also adopted such vital measures as those to implement artificial rainfall, to distribute water pumps to rural farmers and drought-resistant crop seeds in the drought-affected areas.


India has, from early 2009, suffered the most serious dry spells of the past four decades or so after 1972. Precipitation in the rainy season is only 23 percent of the national average for years; and water storage capacity in reservoirs is merely 60 percent or 10 percent lower than the average level over the past decade. Relevant official statistics show that the nation's agriculture income fell by nearly 3 percent in the last quarter of 2009. Moreover, rice yields dropped by almost 14 percent in the autumn harvest of 2009, and poor yields pushed food prices to historical highs.

At present, the Indian Agriculture Ministry urges state governments to do a good job with preparations to curb the occurrence of a similar drought as the one that happened in 2009, while taking measures to ease pressures on farmers. The budget proposal introduced for the new fiscal year has extended the time limit for farmers' loan-repaying period up to six months.

Furthermore, the Indian government also plans to use 20 billion rupees (A US dollar equals to 45 rupees) for the introduction of the latest agriculture technologies to ward off climate change, and input 4 billion rupees to help India's eastern region to carry out the "green revolution".


Due to incessant dry spells, the Red River(also known as Song Hong)at the Hanoi section is exposed with multiple shoals. The water for production and local people's life is menaced, storage water levels ebb in hydro dams, and some hydroelectric-power generating units can no longer operate normally. As of early March, forest fires are extremely dangerous at least in 19 provinces, and there is such a grave forest fire risk in another 23 provinces. And drought caused by El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon is likely to sustain until May in the country, according to Vietnam's meteorological institutions.


Summer season has set in March in Thailand. With the arrival of sweltering weather, dry spells would also be worsened or aggravated. Out of the 75 provinces across Thailand, 52 with close to 400 counties are facing a severe drought, which has been affecting the life of almost seven million people from 19,000 villages. Data released by the Thai Water Research Center indicate that the water storage capacity in major reservoirs has only reached 60 percent. And the crisis of acute water shortages could occur if there is less rainfall in the rainy season of early June.

At present, artificial rainfall has been introduced in northern Thailand, and the scope for artificial rainfall will expand gradually. The Thai Interior Ministry has established a command center for an anti-drought endeavor and to help drought-affected people to combat dry spells, so as to meet their demand for drinking water.

Meanwhile, acknowledged a Thailand State Television station reporter, King Bhumibol Adulyadej's royal artificial rainfall center has put up a number of executive centers nationwide to grant relief to disastrous areas for decades and, coupled with efforts of relevant departments, Thailand will be fully capable of coping with the deteriorating dry spells.

By People's Daily Online and contributed by PD overseas resident reporters Wang Xinping, Sun Tianren, Liao Zhengjun, Liu Gang and Sun Guangyong
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