A drought is threatening supplies of drinking water to more than 14 million people in China, a national environmental protection official said yesterday.
The drought has affected 16.3 million hectares of farmland in China's northern, northeastern and southwestern regions, said Zhang Zhitong, executive director of the State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters.
The amount of affected farmland is 36.3 per cent more than the average annual area, Zhang said.
The drinking water shortage has also affected 11.55 million head of livestock, Zhang said.
Weather forecasters say there is no sign of the drought breaking in most parts of northern and southwestern regions in the foreseeable future.
Beijing, with a permanent population of 15.36 million and more than 4 million transient residents, is suffering its worst drought in 50 years, with only 17 millimetres of rainfall reported in the past four months, down 63 per cent from the same period last year.
Local authorities have warned that the lack of rain is already challenging the city's water supply.
Beijing has suffered drought for seven consecutive years. The average annual rainfall between 1999 and 2005 was only 70 per cent of the average since records began.
The State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters yesterday ordered local governments to take "all possible" measures to combat the drought.
However, in many parts of southern China the situation could not be more different, on account of recent heavy rainfall.
Speaking at a press conference in Beijing yesterday, a Ministry of Civil Affairs official said a series of natural disasters caused by unfavourable climate had resulted in heavy losses of lives and property.
Li Baojun, an official with the ministry's Department of Disaster Relief, said six provinces and municipalities Anhui, Jiangxi, Hubei, Chongqing, Sichuan and Guizhou, with Hubei and Chongqing had borne the brunt of the bad weather.
Li said recent excessive rainfall in the south had caused frequent disasters such as flooding and debris flows.
In Southwest China's Guizhou Province, natural disasters have claimed 22 lives in the past 20 days.
According to the Guizhou Bureau of Civil Affairs, from April 21 to May 10, more than 2.64 million people have been affected by disasters, with 98 injured. Five are still missing.
(China Daily 05/12/2006 page2)