Many people are not aware that China has a freshwater lake that spans 1,737 square miles. Scratch that, China had a lake that size. Recent photos show that areas of Poyang Lake in Jiangxi province have dried up completely, turning into a vast grassland. Drought conditions in the province have resulted in an early dry season, causing much of the lake water to disappear. Now, visitors can walk on dry ground where water once measured between 28- and 82-feet-deep.
The lake, formerly the largest freshwater body inside China’s borders, has shrunk and grown over the years in response to wet and dry seasons, but its current state is unprecedented. The problem started months ago, after the northern part of Jiangxi province experienced a rainfall shortage starting in September. Photos taken on November 2 in the city of Lushan reveal that much of the lake’s water has receded and been replaced by sprouting grassland. A large ship has been grounded, left stranded by the disappearing water. Luixingdun island was once surrounded by deep water and is now circled by grazing cattle.
The startling images were circulated by China’s state-run news agency, Xinhua, and they tell a tale of one of the most drastic impacts of climate change. Poyang Lake was once a thriving locale for the fishing and shrimping industry, and also provided water for irrigation of nearby rice fields as well as the local water utilities for area communities. Xingzi Hydrological Station, which monitors the lake, reports that the water level dropped to 34.8 feet on November 3, down from 39.4 foot on September 19, which marked the beginning of an early dry season. The drought so far as left many parts of the lake bed exposed like a grassy plain, and the remaining water continues to recede.
Images via Xinhua