China's two largest fresh water lakes are drying up amid a lingering drought that has plagued the Yangtze River, China's longest river, with the lowest levels of rainfall seen since 1961.
The central region of the lake has now become a vast grassland.
The drought has affected parts of Hubei, Hunan, Jiangxi, Anhui, Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces, which are located near the middle and lower reaches of the river. These areas have seen 40 to 60 percent less rainfall than normal.
In Hunan Province, fishermen near the Dongting Lake, the second largest freshwater lake, have had to seek jobs outside their hometown after the water level in the lake plummeted to a record low 21.74 meters two weeks ago.
The accumulative rainfall in the Dongting Lake area since January fell 50 to 60 percent from the recorded average of past years, according to the provincial meteorological station.
The central region of the lake has now become a vast grassland. "On May 24, 2010, the lake area was 1,649 square kilometers and long-time survey shows that the lake area is 900 sq km on average for May, but this year the lake area is 60 percent smaller than the average," said Han Qinzhe, an expert from Hunan Provincial Meteorological Research Institution.
Similarly, the water volume in the Poyang Lake, the country's largest freshwater lake in Jiangxi Province, has shrunk to 740 million cubic meters --87 percent smaller than in previous years.
The center of the lake has also become a grassland. "Normally we would have our dragon boat race in May, but now there is no water, only grass," said a villager surnamed Qiu in Hongwei village of Xinjiang County.
Experts warn that continuous drought could lead to an explosion in the population of field mice if the drought doesn't subside by July.
From May 25 to June 10, more water is being discharged from the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River in an attempt to combat the drought in downstream provinces, increasing the water flow from the previous 10,000 cubic meters per second to 11,000 to 12,000 cubic meters per second.