Drought Relief Efforts

Drought relief efforts underway

By Liang Chao (chinadaily.com.cn)
Updated: 2010-04-08 22:00
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BEIJING – Chinese authorities have intensified their efforts to alleviate the persistent drought in Southwest China, secure drinking water for millions of rural people and mitigate damages caused by the catastrophe.

The drought has hit five provinces in Southwest China including Yunnan and Guizhou, with almost nothing left to harvest for locals in many remote villages.

"The drought is still going on despite the recent rainfalls seen in the affected areas," Chen Lei, minister of water resources, said on Wednesday. "The rainfall is not enough to alleviate the dry spell that has lingered on there as early as since last autumn."

"Worse than that, the drought in other areas of China is showing up," he warned at the High Level Roundtable on Global Climate Change and Water Security in China. Officials and experts there urged authorities to improve the country's water supply security.

So far this week, the drought, the worst in 100 years for some Southwestern provinces, has affected 80,700 hectares of farmland, plunging about 26 million people into a shortage of drinking water.

The central government has allocated as much as 7.5 billion yuan ($10.98 billion) for them, including 155 million yuan budgeted for the mega drought - one billion yuan for comprehensive alternatives against the drought and 6.4 billion yuan for rural drinking safety and small water projects.

The water ministry is accelerating planning for water projects in the five affected provinces and has begunr construction of more small irrigation and drainage projects.

In addition, water-control projects like medium reservoirs will be initiated as soon as possible, Chen said.

To enhance water storage capability in Southwest China's mountainous areas, small water supply projects such as ponds and water cellars will be built. Ground water in Southwest China's karst areas will be exploited as strategic reserves.

More efforts will also be put into the regions' irrigation systems to improve the drought-resistance capacity of local farming.

According to Wang Hao, vice-chairman of Global Water Partnership China and an academician of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, drought has become one of the worst calamities affecting China's economy. Its damages have caused 55 percent of the total from all weather-related disasters.