Yunnan’s ’100 Year’ Drought

Yunnan Province and several adjacent provinces in southwest China are in the midst of the worst drought in 100 years. Since August 2009 there has been almost no rainfall anywhere in Yunnan Province.

China Daily (the government-operated English-language newspaper) reported: The drought has left 18 million people and 11.7 head of livestock with drinking water shortage. Millions of people who rely on subsistence-irrigated farming for food, are experiencing food shortage.

Yunnan's climate varies greatly from the temperate north to the tropical south. But all parts of the province lie in the path of the summer monsoon. While both volume and frequency vary as widely as does the geography, during a typical year all parts of the province experience rainfall from May through October. In many parts of the province, including Kunming, some rain should fall during every month of the year.

The severe drought has seriously affected Yunnan's flower-growing industry – one of the chief industries of the province. In 2009 on peak days, Kunming's Dounan Flower Market sold 3 million flowers a day. This year the market has sold only 1.4 million flowers a day.

Tens of thousands of farmers in Yunnan make a living growing and selling flowers. Many small-scale farms have been especially hard hit due to lack of irrigation water.

In contrast, large farms that can afford to use water-conserving drip irrigation are making a fortune from the higher prices they are able to command from the short supply of flowers.

Apart from the flower industry, production of all of the province's major crops has also been seriously affected: tobacco, robber and sugar cane.


Kunming City seems unaffected by the drought. The city is located on the north shore of a large lake. The rather polluted lake supplies water for street washing and irrigating public areas. As elsewhere in China, no one dares to drink the polluted tap water. Purified drinking water is bottled in 20 liter containers and delivered to consumers.

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