China: more floods and fears for food security

10 Oct 2023 by The Water Diplomat

Flooding hit southern China again in September. On September 8, heavy rains hit Hong Kong and southern China. Over 600 mm of rain fell overnight, representing a quarter of the city's average annual rainfall. The Hong Kong Observatory said it had recorded 158.1 millimeters (6.2 inches) of rain in an hour, the highest one-hour record since records began in 1884. The rains flooded the city and some subway stations, leading to the evacuation of hundreds of people and two reported deaths in Hong Kong. The extreme weather conditions, expected to last at least a day, finally held off.  Widespread flooding and serious disruption to traffic and transport. For a further four days, the country experienced days of incessant rain. These were caused by the remnants of the former typhoon Haiku, which had hit southern China eight days earlier.

It was later downgraded to a tropical storm, but incessant rain continues to inundate southwestern Guangxi. The rains have caused over 100 landslides, trapped around 1,360 residents in floodwaters and killed at least seven people in southern China, according to official media reports. Three days of incessant storms were also recorded. As a result, 115 landslides destroyed roads, uprooted trees and caused flooding. In mid-September, three people were still missing. Further south, near the coast, the city of Beihai was flooded by widespread downpours. Rescuers were seen walking up to their thighs in waterlogged areas to evacuate residents aboard boats. Some 1,360 people were stranded, observed local media. More than 101 mm (4 inches) of rain fell over a three-hour period on September 12. Authorities warned of the risk of flash floods, geological disasters and waterlogging in urban and rural areas. The city of Haikui was devastated. The same is true of the populous city of Shenzhen. According to the authorities, this was the heaviest rainfall since 1952. The neighboring city of Hong Kong was also hit by the worst storm 140 years ago.

Scientists also warn that the typhoons hitting China are becoming increasingly intense and their paths more complex, increasing the risk of disaster even in coastal cities like Shenzhen. Cities that already have solid flood defense capabilities.

Concerns over food security  

Today, however, food security is the main concern. A record summer of rainfall and flooding has submerged furrows and destroyed crops.  Last month, flood waters destroyed 220,000 and 105,000 acres of crops respectively. Earlier this summer, extreme rainfall reportedly affected up to 30 million tons of grain in Henan province, a region widely referred to as China's breadbasket.  China's leaders have long wondered how to feed the country's large population (nearly a fifth of the world's population) when it is home to just 9% of the planet's arable land. Food shortages caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have sparked unrest in the cities. "Food security is a very important concern for the Chinese government. Most ancient Chinese dynasties were toppled by an uprising of farmers due to extreme weather conditions that caused famine or food crises," said Zongyuan Zoe Liu, international political economist at the Council on Foreign Relations.