Drought turns China's largest freshwater lake into 'prairie'

11:17, May 27, 2011      

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A water area of Poyang Lake covering an area of 6.67 square kilometers contracted by a farmer of Hongwei Village, Nanji Town, Xinjian County of Jiangxi Province has dried up and the lake grass has been as high as over one meter, making it look like a boundless prairie. (Photo: Yangcheng Evening News)

Poyang Lake, China's largest freshwater lake, located in east China's Jiangxi Province, is in danger of drying up.

The water level of Poyang Lake increased by more than one meter to about 10 meters, but was still 4 meters lower than that in the same period of last year. It has also dropped to the lowest point in its history for the same period

According to the latest reports from satellite remote sensing, the current water area of Poyang Lake is 1,326 square kilometers, which is the smallest on record. The size of the water area is just one-tenth of the area during the same period in 2010.

"Due to the lack of water, the central area of the lake has become a prairie," said a local peasant in Hongwei Village, Nanji Town, Xinjian County of Jiangxi Province.

Poyang Lake National Nature Reserve covers an area of 224 kilometers, accounting for 5 percent of the area of Poyang Lake. As the important wetland in the world, the nature reserve owes nine lakes, eight of which have dried up.

In addition, located on the southern bank of the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River, Poyang Lake is home to 140 kinds of fish and some 600 other animals.

The drought would lead to a water shortage, which would in turn affect the living space for the growth of aquatic plants and the fish stocks. Ultimately some top species in the food chain will be disturbed, said Dai Nianhua, deputy director of the Poyang Lake Research Center of Jiangxi Provincial Academy of Sciences, who worried more about the ecosystem of the Poyang Lake.

The severe drought around the Poyang Lake has led to a cut of rice cultivation and the number fish species in the area.

Yuan Zhi, a farmer of Shuxia Village in Yongxiu County, contracted some 3.3 hectares of farmland at 3,000 yuan per hectare a year. He intended to plant rice and cotton in the fields. But the unexpected severe drought has made it impossible to irrigate the fields.

As boats jostle for space on the lake, fishermen are desperate as they worry about their livelihoods. Some fishermen living near the Poyang Lake have had to seek jobs outside their hometown.

By Ye Xin, People's Daily Online / agencies

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