Chinese factories close as drought hits hydropower

Factories in China’s southwest have shut down after reservoirs used to generate hydropower ran low in a worsening drought, adding to economic strains at a time when President Xi Jinping is trying to extend his position in power.

Companies in Sichuan province – including makers of solar panels, cement and urea – closed or reduced production after they were ordered to ration power for up to five days, according to news reports Wednesday.

That came after reservoir levels fell and power demand for air conditioning surged in scorching temperatures.

Leave power for the people,” said an order from the provincial government dated Tuesday.

The shutdowns add to challenges for the ruling Communist Party as Xi, the country’s most powerful leader in decades, prepares to try to break with tradition and award himself a third five-year term as leader at a meeting in October or November.

Growth in factory output and retail sales weakened in July, setting back China’s economic recovery after Shanghai and other industrial centres were shut down starting in late March to fight virus outbreaks.

The economy grew by just 2.5 percent over a year earlier in the first half of 2022, less than half the official annual goal of 5.5 percent.

Areas across central and northern China ordered emergency measures to ensure drinking water supplies after summer rain was as little as half normal levels. The official Xinhua News Agency said fire trucks had carried water to two dry villages near Chongqing in the southwest.

Hundreds of thousands of hectares of crops across central and northern China have wilted due to lack of water and high temperatures, according to the government. Some areas have declared the summer growing season a failure.

In Sichuan, which has 94 million people, water levels at hydropower reservoirs are down by as much as half this month, according to the Sichuan Provincial Department of Economics and Information Technology.

A subsidiary of Guoguang Co. Ltd, which makes pesticides and fertilisers closed from Monday through at least Saturday, according to a company announcement through the Shenzhen Stock Exchange.

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