Shandong hit by worst dry spell in 60 yrs

By Cheng Yingqi and Zhao Ruixue (China Daily)
Updated: 2011-01-24 06:56
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240,000 face shortage of drinking water

JINAN - Shandong province's worst drought in six decades is escalating, causing a shortage of drinking water for 240,000 people, as northern, central and eastern provinces are battling increasingly dry conditions, authorities said.

Since October 2010, average precipitation in most parts of Shandong is only 11 mm, 86 percent less than usual.

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Shandong hit by worst dry spell in 60 yrsSevere drought hits China's Shandong province

If the province sees no effective rainfall before the Spring Festival, which falls on Feb 3, the number of people facing a shortage of drinking water will increase from the existing 240,000 to 300,000, the Shandong provincial flood control and drought relief headquarters said on Sunday.

At present, about 2 million hectares of land used for growing wheat, or 56 percent of the wheat-planting area in the province, have been hit by drought, and the area is expanding, the headquarters said.

Heze and Jining cities in the southwestern part of Shandong may see the severest winter drought in 200 years, and Zaozhuang, Tai'an, Laiwu, Linyi, Rizhao and Liaocheng cities are likely to see their most severe drought in a century, according to the headquarters.

"Prolonged dry weather has lowered reservoir storage in Linyi, Rizhao and Weifang, where tap water is not available, so the villagers have to transport water from nearby places that have a supply," Yin Changwen, spokesman for the headquarters, told China Daily.

Local authorities in these affected areas are sending fire trucks to deliver drinking water to residents daily, Yin said.

The province has earmarked 680 million yuan ($103 million) and organized 2.11 million people to fight the drought, according to the headquarters.

The local hydrology authority forecast that the drought will probably worsen in the next couple of months, as the volume of precipitation may not return to normal levels before May, and the average temperature will be higher than previous years, a Xinhua News Agency report said on Sunday.

The drought in Shandong is part of a severe dry spell that started in October and has hit northern, central and eastern parts of China, including nine provincial regions such as Beijing, Henan, Shanxi, Hebei, Jiangsu and Anhui, the Office of State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters said.

Millions of hectares of land used to cultivate wheat have dried up, the headquarters added.

Premier Wen Jiabao wrapped up an inspection tour of drought-hit Henan province from Friday to Saturday, urging more efforts by local governments to ensure wheat survives the frigid winter.

He said local government departments must work out and implement agricultural technologies as soon as possible to reduce the impact of drought on agricultural production.

Wen also called on local governments to increase funding in the fight against drought, particularly for the construction of anti-drought emergency water projects.

Local governments must also pay close attention to ensuring enough drinking water for people and livestock in regions that were heavily affected, he said.

In contrast to the drought, South China is freezing with continuous snowfall and icy rain, which has made life difficult for some people in remote areas

"I've not eaten vegetables for many days," Luo Asha, a farmer in Longlin county of the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, was quoted by Xinhua as saying on Sunday.

Jiang Zude, another local resident, said rice for his family could only last for five days, and no vegetables were available at all. "During the icy weather, we have only salt and hot pepper to go with rice," he said.

Freezing rain hit Guangxi in early January and has continued, cutting off 337 roads in the autonomous region by Jan 20.

In some rural areas, accumulated ice disrupted water and electricity supplies. Crops and plants have frozen.

Experts said the abnormal weather - drought in the north and freezing conditions in the south - is partly due to the La Nina phenomenon, which refers to a drop in temperature of the sea surface across the equatorial eastern central Pacific Ocean. It is the opposite of the more widely known El Nino.

The number of extreme weather events in China has been increasing since 2000, and 2010 marked the most instances in a decade, the China Meteorological Administration (CMA) said.

These include extremely high and low temperatures, drought, rainstorms and typhoons. Chen Zhenlin, director of the emergency response, disaster mitigation and public services department under the CMA, said global warming was largely to blame.