Czechs facing worst drought for 500 years: Minister

Czechs facing worst drought for 500 years: Minister

FILE PHOTO: Stubs are seen in a forest near the village of Markvartice
Stubs are seen in a forest, which was affected by bark beetle attacks, near the village of Markvartice, Czech Republic, Apr 5, 2019. (Photo: REUTERS/David W Cerny)

PRAGUE: The Czech Republic is facing its worst drought in 500 years and some communities could see their supplies run dry, Environment Minister Richard Brabec said on Wednesday (Apr 29).

A map presented by the ministry showed that just 0.1 per cent of the Czech Republic had a normal level of water in the soil in mid-April while extreme drought was found in 75.4 per cent of the country.

Drought conditions have persisted since 2015, as temperatures rise and rainfall dwindles.

"We are facing an unprecedented drought period, both in its duration and its impact," Brabec said after scientists presented data showing the Czech Republic faced the worse drought in 500 years.

FILE PHOTO: One of the 'hunger stones' revealed by the low level of water in the Elbe Riv
FILE PHOTO: One of the 'hunger stones' revealed by the low level of water in the Elbe River is seen in Decin, Czech Republic, August 29, 2018. REUTERS/David W Cerny/File Photo

"Smaller rivers will dry out, there may be tens, perhaps hundreds of communities supplied by cisterns, because their sources may dry out," Brabec said.

The problem has been exacerbated by the fact most Czech rivers flow out of the country and by the legacy of intensive farming.

In the country's Communist era of forced collectivisation, fields were joined up into some of Europe's largest single-crop units, while pathways and other dividers were removed.

FILE PHOTO: A worker drives a tractor during the hops harvest season in the village of Rocov
FILE PHOTO: A worker drives a tractor during the hops harvest season in the village of Rocov near Zatec, Czech Republic, August 30, 2018. REUTERS/David W Cerny/File Photo

Experts say this has significantly reduced the ability of the landscape to retain water, now leaving the nation of 10.7 million struggling to maintain sustainable water levels.

Drought and higher temperatures have also contributed to the bark beetle spread, which hit the country last year with damage estimated at US$1.70 billion.

The Environment Ministry is negotiating for 3.5 billion crowns (£112.70 million) of extra spending this year to fight the drought, Brabec said, a move that could help a harvest that includes grains and rapeseed. He did not give details of how he envisaged the money being spent.

Source: Reuters/ec

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