Yangtze drought affects 1.5m people

(China Daily)
Updated: 2007-02-27 07:15

CHONGQING: Severe drought has had a debilitating effect on the Yangtze River over the last two weeks, leaving at least 1.5 million people in Chongqing Municipality with water shortages, local authorities said yesterday.

A spokesman of Shapingba Waterworks, one of the largest drinking water suppliers in the city center, told Xinhua that only one of its 10 pipes used to pump water from the Yangtze was still below the water surface and in operation and that is only 10 cm below the water level.

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"If the water levels in the Yangtze and its upper tributary Jialing River continue to decline, we'll face a real crisis," he said.

The municipal drought control authority has sent water wagons to the drought-hit areas to provide water for humans and cattle and has told local governments to build up reserves.

The local hydrological bureau said water levels in the Yangtze and Jialing rivers had declined sharply in recent weeks due to a lack of rainfall. It follows last summer's severe drought that forced tens of thousands of farmers to eke out a living away from home many ended up picking cotton in northwestern Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

On Sunday, the water level at Cuntan hydrological station in Chongqing measured 158.43 meters, only 35 centimeters higher than the record low reported in 1987, said a bureau spokesman surnamed Wang.

Wang blamed a glut of power plants in the Yangtze's upper reaches for the decline in water.

Sources with the China Three Gorges Project Corporation said the water shortage in the upper reaches had not affected the world's largest water storage facility in the lower reaches.

The flow of water into the dam measured 3,700 cubic meters per second and the water level at the dam was 153.43 meters on Sunday afternoon, which safeguard the operation of the dam.

But the declining water level in Chongqing has played havoc with navigation and a cargo ship carrying 1,400 tons of timber was stranded on Sunday close to Chongqing's Xinggang port. The salvage operation lasted 5 hours.

Yesterday, the local maritime bureau suspended navigation in the area between 12:30 pm and 2:30 pm every day for surveying and dredging.

"The Yangtze suffers drought almost every spring, but this year's situation is worse than ever," said a sailor, adding the water level at Chaotianmen Wharf in central Chongqing was "lower by at least 1 meter" compared with last year.

The exposed riverbed near the wharf has become a temporary playground for locals to sunbathe and fly kites.

The Chongqing municipal flood control and drought relief office said it planned to ease the drought through artificial rainfall.


(China Daily 02/27/2007 page2)

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