Drought leaves 300,000 short of drinking water in NW China

Updated: 2007-02-06 20:27

XI'AN -- Drought has left 300,000 people short of drinking water and affected thousands of hectares of cropland in northwest China's Shaanxi Province in the past two months, say local authorities.

The average rainfall in January in central Shaanxi was 50 to 90 percent below average and temperatures were one to two degrees centigrade higher, according to the Shaanxi Provincial Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters.

Only two to six millimeters of rain fell in January in Baoji City, and no rainfall was reported in Weinan City, the headquarters said. Sporadic drizzle fell on Xianyang and Xi'an.

Water shortages had affected more than 300,000 rural residents and 60,000 livestock in Tongchuan, Xianyang and Weinan, three cities in central Shaanxi.

Wang Zhimin, a 65-year-old farmer in Xianyang, said the drought meant that he had to spend three to four hours fetching water at a distance of more than 10 kilometers from his home.

Xi'an, Weinan, Tongchuan and Baoji have earmarked funds of 31 million yuan (US$3.9 million) for drought relief. The provincial water resources department will also allocate special funds to fight the drought.

Six artificial rainfall teams are on standby in drought-affected cities in Shaanxi.

Local water resources authorities organized 1,840 vehicles to carry drinking water to those severely affected.

Meanwhile, water conservation facilities have also been fully commissioned to irrigate crops in the drought-hit areas.

The drought would worsen as temperatures in February were expected to be higher than the same period in previous years and little rainfall was forecast, local meteorologists said.

The latest report from China's Central Weather Bureau indicated that drought had extended to more areas in northeast, east, northwest and southwest China in the past month.

The worst drought for five years is set to hit the central part of Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region this spring, according to a forecast released by the Ningxia Meteorological Bureau.

The first moderate rainfall this spring is not forecast to hit the drought-affected central and southern parts of the region until late April or early May.

The meteorologists suggested local farmers in drought-affected areas should plant crops that can survive serious drought such as potatoes.

In east China's Shandong Province, where the average rainfall was only 0.7 millimeters in January, down 91 percent from the average in previous years, drought has affected half a million hectares of cropland.

Most parts of China have been experiencing higher temperatures this winter with little snow and rain compared with previous years.

The temperature in Beijing reached 16 degrees centigrade on Monday, the highest in 167 years. Shanghai's temperature on Tuesday soared to 23.4 degrees centigrade, the highest in February for nearly a decade, according to the city's meteorological observatory - and it is only February 6.

Temperatures in many cities in east China's Anhui Province reached 22 to 24.3 degrees centigrade on Tuesday, the highest for this time of the year in half a century.

The warmth has also dented the profits of florists. Millions of potted daffodils - traditional gifts at Spring Festival - have already bloomed, scuppering shop owners' delaying tactics.

"We were planning to let the daffodils bloom just before the Spring Festival so we could sell them at higher prices," said one florist in Shanghai.

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