How Europe is battling its ‘worst drought in 500 years; Here’s how it has affected other countries | The Financial Express

How Europe is battling its ‘worst drought in 500 years; Here’s how it has affected other countries

Besides drinking water and agriculture, the most significant impact of the drought has been the reduction in water levels in Europe’s waterways.

How Europe is battling its ‘worst drought in 500 years; Here’s how it has affected other countries
Besides drinking water and agriculture, the most significant impact of the drought has been the reduction in water levels in Europe's waterways

As Europe witnessed, the worst drought in the last 500 years, dramatic images of exposed and drying river beds are being presented in European media. Some of the biggest waterways in the region, such as the Danube, the Rhine, and the Po, are unable to support large boats. With water levels falling, the remains of sunken ships and hunger stones, which were engraved with the names of previous generations, have been discovered.

It is being said that Europe has not seen such a prolonged drought since 1540 when tens of thousands of people died due to a year-long drought. The heatwave that affected the region earlier this year also led to high temperatures in several countries.

The effects of the drought have been severe. Water transport has been severely affected, and it has led to the reduction of power production. This has caused a rise in energy prices, which was already caused by the war in Ukraine. In some countries, drinking water is rationed. Food prices have also increased significantly.

Europe’s worst drought in 500 years

Several European droughts, such as those that occurred in 2003, 2010, and 2018, were also compared to the 1540 drought. Although the 2018 drought was regarded as the worst in 500 years, a scientist from the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre claimed that this year could be worse.

Although the exact effects of the drought are still not known, it is widely believed that this event will be worse than the previous ones. For six months, Europe has been experiencing a series of large-scale climatic anomalies. The region has not seen such a significant decrease in precipitation, and temperatures have reached unprecedented levels. This has caused a rise in energy and food prices.

Waterways and power

Besides drinking water and agriculture, the most significant impact of the drought has been the reduction in water levels in Europe’s waterways. This region is heavily dependent on its waterways for transporting various cargo, such as coal. With water levels at less than a meter in some sections, large ships have been unable to operate.

The lack of coal has also caused power generation to be severely affected. Nuclear power plants rely on large amounts of water for cooling, and this has resulted in the operation of plants that are not able to produce enough electricity. Due to the lack of supply, the UK’s household energy costs are expected to double by October.

Grim drought conditions worldwide

According to an analytical report released by the Global Drought Observatory on Tuesday, about 64% of the continent’s land area is currently experiencing drought conditions. The situation was only worsening as of August 10.

Around 90% of France and Switzerland’s geographical area and 83% of Germany’s geographical area were affected by agricultural drought. In Italy, 75% of the country’s land area was additionally experiencing this issue. Although some areas, such as the UK, received rain in the last week, it did not make a significant difference to the situation. GDO’s report suggests that the prevailing conditions could extend up to November.

In other countries, such as France and the UK, the rainfall has been very scanty. In July, the UK had its driest month since 1935, while Germany only received half of its normal rainfall. The Netherlands, on the other hand, has also experienced one of the driest years ever.

In China, various regions are currently experiencing a serious drought, which is considered to be the worst in 60 years. One of the country’s major rivers, the Yangtze, is reportedly experiencing its lowest water levels ever recorded. According to a report by the South China Morning Post, two of the country’s biggest freshwater lakes, Dongting and Poyang, have also reached their lowest levels since 1951.

In the US, about 40% of the country’s geographical area is currently experiencing drought conditions. This has affected around 130 million people.

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