Drought affects 7.5m people

By Zhu Zhe (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-08-06 06:37

While much of the country has been inundated by the worst rains of the year, widespread and prolonged drought is plaguing the northern, northeastern and southern regions.

By the weekend, it had left at least 7.5 million people and 5 million head of livestock short of drinking water, according to figures from the Office of the State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters (SFDH).

The figures also show the sustained drought has affected 11 million hectares of arable land, 1.7 million more than the same period of last year. Among the affected, about 9.8 million hectares, or 89 percent, are crop fields.

Cheng Dianlong, deputy director of the SFDH, said the worst-hit regions were Heilongjiang and Jilin in the northeast, Inner Mongolia in the north, Jiangxi in the east, Guangxi in the south and Hunan in Central China.

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He said severe drought had affected at least one-third of the arable land in Heilongjiang, Jiangxi and Hunan, causing huge agricultural losses.

In Jiangxi Province, where more than 1 million people face drinking water shortages, 47 counties have carried out a total of 335 artificial rainfall operations, bringing almost 500 million cu m of rain, according to a Xinhua report.

In Heilongjiang, a major grain base, the local meteorological station has warned parts of the province might experience a "once-in-50-years" drought.

Cheng attributed the widespread drought to "continuous hot weather and insufficient rainfall".

He said since last month, the rainfall in Heilongjiang, Inner Mongolia and some parts of the southern and eastern regions was only half of the normal amount.

Even new reservoirs in eight provinces, including Heilongjiang, Jiangxi and Guangdong, contained 15 billion cu m less than they did at the same time last, Chen said.

The SFDH predicted the drought would worsen as no significant rainfall was forecast for the next 10 days.

In response to that, the office called for better monitoring of the drought and asked for relevant departments, such as the Ministry of Civil Affairs, to help allocate financial and material aid.

The Ministry of Finance has allocated 1.48 billion yuan ($195 million) to fight drought and floods across the country.

(China Daily 08/06/2007 page3)

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