Many areas in the grip of heat, drought
By Le Tian (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-08-18 06:45

CHONGQING: Many regions in the country are in the grip of severe drought which has led to drinking water shortages for more than 10 million people, affected millions of hectares of farmland and caused a loss of at least 9.9 billion yuan (US$1.24 billion).

The worst drought in 50 years has turned farmland in Bishan county of Chongqing into barren land. [China Daily]

Searing heat has evolved into a crisis that has forced Chongqing the worst-affected to introduce contingency plans for power and water supplies.

The municipal government is advising people to seek shelter from high temperatures, which hovered above 40 C in the past week, and allowed employees to take days off from work till conditions become more bearable.

Temperatures in suburban Qijiang county soared to 44.5 C on Wednesday a national record for 53 years and the once-busy streets were almost empty yesterday as most people chose to stay at home.

Chongqing, a city of 31 million, is the hardest hit by the drought nationwide. It has had no rain for more than 70 days and two-thirds of its rivers have gone dry, local drought-relief authorities said yesterday.

More than 7.7 million people and 7.2 million head of cattle face a shortage of drinking water in the 40 districts and counties, said He Lingyun, a disaster relief official with the municipal government.

"This is the worst drought to hit Chongqing in 50 years," he said.

About 2.7 million hectares of crops in Chongqing and neighbouring Sichuan Province have been destroyed, with the total loss reaching 9.9 billion yuan, according to local agriculture authorities.

Water is rationed in the downtown areas of Chongqing, and farmers have to trudge long distances in the countryside to fetch it.

Most crops have withered under the scorching sun, and at least 1.3 million hectares of farmland has been affected, said He.

Li Shikui from Huangjing Village of Qijiang estimated that more than 70 per cent of the rice crop of the village would be destroyed and "we might have food shortages next year."

Gu Qixiu, a villager in Zhangguan town, Yubei District, said "the village well has gone dry and even the dusty water at the bottom has been scooped up."

Chongqing has mobilized 6.2 million people and more than 13,000 vehicles, and allocated 140 million yuan (US$17.5 million) to combat the drought.

The local meteorological station forecast that the hot weather would continue till the month-end.

Elsewhere in the country:

3 million people in Sichuan Province do not have adequate drinking water.

In Central China's Hunan Province, drinking water shortages have affected 270,000 people since June. The temperature has topped 40 C over the past days.

More than 333,000 hectares of farmland in 40 cities and counties across Hunan has been affected.

Gansu, Ningxia, and Inner Mongolia in the northwestern and northern parts of the country have also been affected by severe drought.

The Central Meteorological Administration forecast yesterday that the temperatures in eastern Xinjiang, southern Shaanxi, areas south of the Yangtze River, and central Anhui are expected to range from 35-41 C.

Xinhua contributed to the story

(China Daily 08/18/2006 page1)