The drought in Yunnan

Today I came across an alarming article on the Scientific American website about the environmental degradation of Yunnan, which I visited for a few short days in 2011. At that time, I did not know — and certainly our tour guide didn’t mention — that the province was in the middle of a serious drought, which still lasts to this day. Accompanying the article is a picture of Black Dragon Pool, taken about a year after I visited:

Lijiang Old City: Black Dragon Park
Black Dragon Pool in May 2012 (Flickr/Winston Smith)

Here is a picture of the same lake in May 2011, when I went.

Black Dragon Pool in May 2011.

While Black Dragon Pool is man-made, it has been around since 1737. It is famous for its scenic views and perfect reflection of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, the tallest peaks in the region.

Much is written about China’s environmental problems, but they mostly focus on pollution and air quality. Droughts have also been a common problem in other Chinese regions recently. The Scientific American article neatly documents the detrimental impact, on both the economy and people’s livelihoods, they have in a province that is widely known for its environmental beauty — clear lakes, lush landscapes and snow-capped mountains. Most of China’s water supply is derived from its far-flung reaches such as Yunnan; what happens if the rivers can’t even supply the western regions? For more on what it’s like in Yunnan now, Time has a good photo gallery of places from around the province.

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