CHINA / Regional

N. Hebei Province suffers worst drought in 55 years
Updated: 2006-04-22 21:26

China's northern province of Hebei is suffering its worst drought in 55 years with hundreds of thousands of people lacking drinking water, a newspaper said on Saturday.

Hebei's worst drought since 1951 had destroyed wheat crops covering about 1.6 million hectares (4 million acres), the 21st Century Herald said.

"About 520,000 people will have seasonal difficulty accessing drinking water," the paper quoted Liu Weizhong, an official with Hebei's anti-drought office, as saying.

"The number of people lacking drinking will greatly increase in the future."

Underground water in the province had dropped by 2 metres (6 ft 7 in) compared with last year, it said.

Chengde, a city in Hebei about 200 km (124 miles) northeast of Beijing, had accumulated only 33 mm (1.299 inches) of rain since the third quarter of last year, the newspaper said.

China has 21 percent of the global population and only 7 percent of the world's total water resources. Measured against its economy, China consumed five times more water than the global average.

Chinese leaders have made "clean water for the people" a top priority in the world's most populous country where widespread flooding and drought cause huge loss of life each year.

China has launched an ambitious South-North water diversion scheme, but pollution and failure by regional governments to improve waste treatment were ruining available supplies.

Nearly 45 billion cubic metres of water from the Yellow, Yangtze and other rivers will be sent north every year when the project is finished in 2050, at an estimated total cost of almost 500 billion yuan ($60.42 billion), twice that of the Three Gorges Dam, the world's biggest hydroelectric project.


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