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China's Fragile Economy Is Being Hammered by Driest Riverbeds Since 1865

  • Factories shut down as extreme heatwave strains energy grids
  • Sichuan is hardest hit as hydropower output slashed by half
Exposed banks, due to low water levels caused by drought, along the Han River near the confluence with the Yangtze River in Wuhan.
Exposed banks, due to low water levels caused by drought, along the Han River near the confluence with the Yangtze River in Wuhan.

Source: Bloomberg

Updated on

Wan Jinjun, a 62-year-old retiree who has swum the Yangtze River almost every day for the past decade in Wuhan, said he’s never seen a drought like this before.

An extreme summer has taken a toll on Asia’s longest river, which flows about 3,900 miles (6,300 kilometers) through China and feeds farms that provide much of the country’s food and massive hydroelectric stations, including the Three Gorges Dam — the world’s biggest power plant. A year ago, water lapped almost as high as the riverbank where Wan swims. Now, the level is at the lowest for this time of year since records began in 1865, exposing swathes of sand, rock and oozing brown mud that reeks of rotting fish.