Drought is a common problem in north-central China, but is rare in the south and southwest part of the country. China’s monsoon climate pattern more typically brings flooding to places like Guizhou. But this summer southwest China has been suffering one of the worst droughts on record. Here’s an English-language report on the drought from China Daily. For a Chinese-language report, with more images, see this report in the Economic Observer. The report indicates that in some regions, most of the crops have already been wiped out by the drought.
One key problem that rural China faces when confronting climate challenges like drought or flooding is the fact that so many villages have been emptied of their able-bodied population (who have migrated to work in the cities), leaving elderly and children behind. They are particularly vulnerable to problems like water shortages, since they may be unable, for example, to walk greater distances if local wells dry up. In Guizhou, local firefighters have been delivering water to the elderly who are unable to collect water for themselves.
UPDATE 9/11/11: A brief report on the drought in The New York Times quotes a Xinhua report claiming 12.6 million people in southwest China are short of water. The report points out that, “This drought and others that have devastated southern China this year have raised questions about the wisdom of a giant and expensive government project to transfer water from rivers in the south, in particular the Yangtze, to the parched north.” This South-to-North Water Diversion Project is also referenced in my 9/1/11 post on water politics in China.