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Asean Affairs  15  February 2011

Drought in China

By  David Swartzentruber

AseanAffairs     15 February 2011

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As stories about the rise in food prices continue to be a daily feature of Asian news, right behind those stories is the impact of drought on China’s wheat supply.

China is the world’s largest wheat growing country but there has been virtually no rain in its wheat belt since October. Over the last weekend, the Chinese government's Office of State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters said in an online statement that the drought situation remained “grim” and urged local officials to dig more wells and carry out other emergency irrigation measures.

China has already said it plans to spend US$1 billion to alleviate the drought, which as of Friday had affected 17 million acres (6.75 million hectares) of crops and left nearly 3 million people short of drinking water. Global wheat prices have increased by 35 percent since mid-November.

If sufficient rainfall occurs during March and April the crop could be saved. The Chinese drought could be a precursor of things to on planet earth as futurologists have predicted that “water will become the oil of the 21st century.”

Scientists in China are calling it the “perfect storm,” when poor water management practices and climate conditions coincide to produce a major drought. Yunnan province has been particularly hard hit. The reservoirs there are 50 years old and there is little knowledge of groundwater supplies, according to Chinese hydrologists.

The Chinese Academy of Sciences states that Yunnan does have a history of droughts every few years but the severity of the current one is what disturbs them.

As this century unfolds, water supplies could become a major issue and battleground.

Paul A. Ebeling, Jnr

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This year in Thailand-what next?

04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

The first issue that can’t be answered is the health of Thailand’s beloved King Bhumibol, who is now 83 years old. He is the world's longest reigning monarch, but elaborate birthday celebrations in December failed to mask concern over his health. More

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