Spring Drought Leaves Millions of Chinese Thirsty


Source: Environment News Service (ENS)

BEIJING, China - Drought in provinces across northern China has left 4.8 million people and an equal number of livestock short of drinking water, the state drought relief headquarters said today.

Temperatures are higher than normal for this time of year and rain is scarce, meteorologists said.

Eleven million hectares of crops have been affected by drought in Gansu, Hebei, Henan and Liaoning, as well as other provinces in northeastern, northern and northwestern China, the headquarters told the official state news agency Xinhua.

At least 500,000 people are thirsty in North China's Hebei Province, which completely surrounds the capital city of Beijing. More than 200 small reservoirs have dried up, officials said.

Beijing, with a permanent population of 15.36 million and more than four million transient residents, has suffered spring drought for the past eight years, and last year experienced its worst drought for 50 years.

This year, from May 1 to 13, the average rainfall in Hebei was only eight millimeters or just 55 percent of normal rainfall, while the average temperature was 25.7 C, three to five degrees higher than normal.

The water resources authority of Handan, in southern Hebei, has decided to divert 20 million cubic meters of water from Changzhi in neighboring Shanxi Province in the next two months to alleviate the water shortage.

'Little rainfall and higher than normal temperatures are the main cause of the drought that began at the end of last month,' said Ye Dianxiu, a meteorologist.

Average temperatures over the past month have been one to two degrees Celsius higher than previous years while rainfall was down 30 to 50 percent in most of the drought-affected areas, Ye said.

He said the drought would continue for at least another 10 days as no significant rainfall is forecast.

Farther south, in central China, more than 190,000 people in Hubei province are facing water shortages. The local government has dispatched about 400,000 people and tens of thousands of pieces of irrigation equipment to combat the disaster, which has afflicted 22 counties and cities of the province.

Precipitation has declined 30 to 60 percent of normal levels in most parts of Hubei since April, local authorities said. Streams and ponds are dry, and livestock are going without water. The drought is expected to affect the wheat harvest.

A week-long campaign for urban water conservation in 2007 was launched this week in Beijing. Authorities said that at present, there are 661 Chinese cities that are short of water.

The Ministry of Water Resources said water use in some urban areas exceeds 200 liters per day per capita, which is higher than that of many developed countries and 'has a great potential for conservation.'

The average temperature last month across China was 11.1 degrees Celsius, 0.9 degrees higher than normal for the period, according to the Central Meteorological Observetary.

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