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With the worst drought in history, China's reeling economy takes another blow

China’s economy is experiencing its worst moment in decades, excluding the exceptional scenario of the first year of the Covid pandemic-19, in 2020: the effects of the strict Covid zero policy lockdowns and the crises in the real estate and banking sectors caused the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to reduce its estimate for the country’s GDP growth by a quarter in 2022 – the perspective now is that the increase will be only 3.3%, below the government’s 5.5% target.

To make this situation worse, high temperatures, droughts and forest fires, which have also affected the United States and Europe, are aggravating this scenario.

For the first time this year, China declared a situation of emergency due to droughts. In dozens of cities, temperatures exceed 40ºC and several points on the Yangtze River, the largest in Asia and which crosses the central and southern regions of Chinese territory, are dry.

The situation is so extreme that the governments of some provinces, such as Hubei in central China, are shooting silver iodide rods into clouds to induce precipitation – they help to form ice crystals so that the cloud produces more rain.

With hydroelectric reservoirs at low levels, energy rationing measures are being taken: in Sichuan, in southwest China, the lack of rains led local authorities to temporarily close all factories last week.

The owner of a farm in the same province posted a video on social media that shows several dead birds . She claimed that the animals were left without ventilation because the power was cut off due to the high temperatures.

With more than 40 days, the heat wave in China is already the longest since complete records began to be made, in 1961, according to the National Climate Center, which predicted in a statement that it could increase in intensity in the coming weeks.

This week, residents of Chongqing (Southwest China) are undergoing tests for Covid-19 due to an outbreak of the disease and images Chinese social media showed dozens of people queuing in the hot sun, with some of them fainting from the intense heat.

The Chinese government estimated that the heat wave caused direct US economic losses. $400 million in the Chinese economy in July alone.

Dan Wang, chief economist at Hang Seng Bank China, told US broadcaster CNBC that the country’s steel, chemical and fertilizer industries undergo a major slowdown in production. “Thatit will affect large energy-intensive industries and will have an indirect effect on the entire economy and even the global supply chain”, he warned.

Interestingly, while some regions of China suffer from drought extreme, others are hit by heavy rains, like the city of Xining, in northwest China, where floods left dozens dead and missing last week.

“Following this trend, future waves of extreme heat will affect even larger areas and impact more people,” Xiaoming Shi, assistant professor in the division of environment and sustainability at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, told the New York Times.

“Everyone, from citizens to public managers and companies, must prepare for this new pattern of extreme weather events and guard against the dangers they will pose”, highlighted the expert.

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