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Worst Drought in Half Century Shrivels the Wheat Belt of China
Northern China is dry in the best of times. But a long rainless stretch has underscored the urgency of water problems in a region that grows three-fifths of China’s crops and houses more than two-fifths of its people — but gets only one-fifth as much rain as the rest of the country.
The current drought, considered the worst in Northern China in at least half a century, is crippling not only the country’s best wheat farmland, but also the wells that provide clean water to industry and to millions of people.
The drought is peaking as millions of migrant workers rendered jobless by factory closings and construction shutdowns are returning from urban areas to places where farming is the main source of income. Government officials are clearly concerned by the prospect of rising unrest among jobless migrants, and water shortages and failed crops only heighten those worries.