Left high and dry

A ship stranded on dry ground in Poyang Lake, China's largest freshwater lake, in Jiangxi province.

Normally, the water body in the lake covers an average of 3,500 sq km, with the area fluctuating between the wet and dry seasons. But local scientists have observed an overall drop in water levels over the last decade, with some blaming it on the lack of rainfall in the area.

This year, the lake hit low water levels about 54 days earlier than in previous years, according to statistics by the Jiangxi provincial hydrographic bureau.

Falling water levels are not just bad news for the rice farmers in this region, but also for the lake's resident finless porpoise - a freshwater mammal that is in grave danger of becoming extinct by 2025, according to a study.

Last year, the government moved eight porpoises from Poyang Lake to two secure habitats in the hope that this would allow the animals to breed safely.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 04, 2016, with the headline 'Left high and dry'. Print Edition | Subscribe