Parched China has not seen weather this dry in 50 years. Facing the staggering consequences of severe drought during an already perilous period of market instability, the Chinese government plans to pump an extra $18 billion into its agricultural production sector. It hopes the fortification staves off climate change induced food crisis.
The dry spell, at its measured worst from October 2008 to February 2009, left more than four million people and 2 million heads of livestock thirsting to death. China’s State Council intends to recover through anti-drought measures — implementing a unified system on drought information collection and release, offering anti-drought insurance, and encouraging local governments to design and carry out projects for water storage, diversion, water pumping and rain collection.
Environmental groups worry the extra money and announced measure may not improve the sustainability of China’s agricultural sector — which is heavily based on intensive farming and genetic engineering. “If it is used to subsidise more chemical fertilisers that would be bad,” Sze Pangcheung, Greenpeace campaign director, told the Guardian, “but it could benefit both farmers and the environment if it was used to support eco-friendly cultivation. But that would require a big paradigm shift.”