Central Europe hit by severe drought, drought declared in the UK

LONDON – Central Europe, the United Kingdom in particular, the home of some of the World's renowned vocal Global warming denial merchants have finally come to terms with reality of climatic changes, most African countries and other regions have experienced in the last two decades.

A report in the British media says parts of East Anglia, County in the Eastern region are officially in a state of drought, according to the English environment department Defra and the Environment Agency.

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Areas in the south-west, south-east, the Midlands and Wales are experiencing near-drought conditions following the driest spring on record in south-east and central southern England. Overall, England and Wales are at their driest since 1990.

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Widespread hosepipe bans are unlikely, although Severn Trent Water has said it is considering “every option”. Farmers face restrictions on drawing water from water courses and rivers to protect wildlife.

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Farmers’ leaders have appealed for authorities not to “just turn taps right off” and instead allow them to eke out supplies. They are attending a “drought summit” on Friday convened by the environment secretary, Caroline Spelman, which will include utility companies, supermarkets and industrial leaders.

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In East Anglia some farmers and growers have volunteered to irrigate only at night in an effort to reduce evaporation. Users are forming water co-operatives to share the limited amounts available.

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Spelman said: “Water companies are confident that supplies are high enough so that widespread restrictions to the public are unlikely. We’re doing all we can to reduce the impact on agriculture and wildlife, but everyone can play their part.

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“Households know how to use less water and everyone can do their bit to use water more wisely, not only through the summer but throughout the year.”

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She told the BBC that water companies were better prepared for the problems than in the past, having drastically cut leaks from pipes. “Just bringing in blanket bans can have unintended consequences. You can, for example, put a garden centre out of business.”

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Thames Water said its reservoirs were 90% full but urged customers to be careful in their water use as it was too early to predict what the summer would be like.

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Paul Leinster, the chief executive of the Environment Agency, said it had worked with water companies and other water users to have plans in place to cope with drought and ensure there was enough water for people, businesses and the environment.

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“Many rivers have low flows as result of the dry weather which can harm wildlife and increase the impact of pollution incidents, so we are stepping up our monitoring to be able to respond quickly.

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“Low river flows also impact on business, as it abstracts millions of gallons from rivers on a daily basis and we need to ensure this is sustainable.”

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Craig Bennett, the policy director of Friends of the Earth, told the BBC that although many water companies had “raised their game” on preserving supplies, successive governments had taken “precious little action” to stop “unsustainable abstractions” and limit building where there was not sufficient water infrastructure.

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Central Europe

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Bernard Maquis’s cattle would normally be grazing in the lush green pastures of the Limousin region, in central France, at this time of year.

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Instead, they are eating hay intended for the winter after months of drought have turned the fields yellow.

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He is wondering whether it might be better to sell his cows at a reduced price rather than find himself without fodder by the end of the autumn. “I’m starting to sleep badly,” he said.

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Mr Maquis is not alone. With northern Europe facing its worst drought since 1976, politicians in the West are expecting protests  from farmers, consumer discontent and a strain on budgets. Third World nations are braced for riots as Europe’s heatwave creates a rise in food prices and drives millions deeper into poverty.

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“We are in a situation of crisis and of crisis management,” French Ecology Minister Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet said. Meteorologists say that northern Europe has had 50 per cent less rain than normal over the past two months, while temperatures have been 4C higher than usual.

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In France, water restrictions have been implemented across more than half the country and the drought is already comparable to 1976, when a heatwave wrecked the annual harvest.

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The difference, according to Michele Blanchard, an engineer in the climatology division of Meteo-France, the weather office, is that “in 1976, the high temperatures came in June, not in April”.

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Germany has had twice as many hours of sunshine as it would normally expect in the spring. Some German regions have had just 5 per cent of their standard rainfall. “We desperately need rain,” said Andrea Adams, spokeswoman for the Farmers Association, in Rhineland-Palatinate.

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She said that the wheat was yellow, the sugar beet had barely grown at all and the rye was “curling up and dying”.

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In the Limousin, Mr Maquis said that the corn to fatten his cattle in the winter should be 20cm high by now. “But it’s just vegetating,” he said, raising the prospect that he will have to buy in fodder. “But at the price we have to pay, it’s not even worth trying. We may as well just shut up shop.”

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With breeders across France beginning to sell animals they cannot feed, protests are under way. In southwest France, farmers blocked roads to a motorway for several hours last week after they failed to obtain temporary permission to take water from rivers.

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The French Government has asked Brussels to pay 710 million ($948m) in European Union aid several months early. But the French farmers’ union also wants the state to underwrite interest-free loans to help les agriculteurs through the summer.

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In France, bakers’ unions are predicting an increase in the cost of baguettes, while in North Rhine-Westphalia, the German region, tomatoes are 26 per cent more expensive than last year. Governing parties fear that the rises will create anti-government sentiment that extreme movements will exploit.

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With droughts also reported in China and southern US states, the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN fears rioting in poor countries.

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But not everyone is complaining. Cherry growers said their fruit was of exceptional quality, the European tourist industry is also pleased, while the salt harvesters of Guerande, in western France, are happy to gather produce two months earlier than usual.