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Grim drought threatens spring ploughing
By Liang Chao (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-04-04 06:26

Persistent drought is threatening the spring ploughing season across China, affecting 12 million hectares of arable land, 9.38 million people and livestock numbering 8.9 million, according to reports released by the Beijing-based State Flood-Control and Drought Relief Headquarters yesterday.

In South China, farmers are currently transplanting rice seedlings while in the north, the wheat crop is entering a critical stage of growth.

All are under threat due to a prolonged dryspell since last autumn, according to the organization.

Two teams of experts have been dispatched by the organization to drought-stricken provinces armed with drought tackling tips to help secure supplies of water for drinking and irrigation. Meanwhile, sources from the organization said they were consulting with the Ministry of Finance over this year's allocation of aid for the worst-hit areas.

Vast stretches of cropland are desperately parched due to inadequate irrigation from dry rivers and reservoirs, according to local media in the affected areas.

Worse still is the lack of drinking water in a number of coastal provinces with millions left without a regular supply.

South China's Hainan, once a water-rich province with annual precipitation exceeding 1,400 millimetres, is in the throes of its worst drought in 50 years. No rain-bringing typhoons have struck since last autumn, worsening the situation.

Water levels in Hainan's 11 medium-sized reservoirs have reached their dead water level, meaning no water can flow into surrounding farmland.

More than 930 small reservoirs and locally-built caches have dried up, affecting the drinking water supplies of about 900,000 people and 200,000 livestock.

And over half of Hainan's cropland lacks water for irrigation.

Neighbouring Guangdong is also suffering after being hit by a salt tide over winter. A salt tide occurs when salty water washes up rivers from river mouths because of low water levels caused by drought.

In North China's Shanxi Province, drought is threatening at least 560,000 hectares of cropland. There is only 860 million cubic metres of water stored in major Shanxi reservoirs, down 200 million cubic metres from a usual year.

In Northwest China's Gansu Province, more than 350,000 people and 380,000 livestock do not have enough drinking water due to a lack of effective precipitation over the past two months.

Facing a worsening spring drought, the central government has called on local authorities to do their utmost to fight back and take countermeasures to ensure a successful spring ploughing season.

"Ensuring spring ploughing against drought is of vital importance for China to stabilize this year's grain yield and help farmers increase their incomes," Vice-Premier Hui Liangyu said during a tour from March 23 to 27 through Hainan and Guangdong.

(China Daily 04/04/2005 page2)

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