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Severe drought continues in central, southern regions

Severe drought continues in central, southern regions

Write: Shakira [2011-05-31]
A villager walks in a dry paddy field in Zhengwenzhuang Village in Xintan Town of Honghu City, central China's Hubei Province, May 30, 2011. Hubei struggles with a devastated drought, whose fishermen living by Honghu Lake are unable to fish there anymore, as the drought has almost completely dried up the 413-square-kilometer lake. (Xinhua/Du Huaju)

BEIJING, May 30 (Xinhua) -- Severe drought is continuing in central and southern China. Water shortages have affected residents and crops, resulting in shrinking lakes, rivers being cut off, and a suspension of shipping in some provinces and cities such as Hunan, Hubei, Jiangxi, Anhui and Shanghai.

The worst drought to hit Hunan Province in nearly a century has caused water shortages that have affected 1.11 million people in this central China province, said an official with the provincial flood control and drought relief headquarters.

China's "land of fish and rice" has seen its lowest levels of rainfall since 1910, according to the official. Further, as of Monday, 13 of Hunan's 14 major cities have been affected by the drought, the official said.

Continuously shrinking lakes and rivers have left 157 towns in Hunan without adequate supplies of water, according to the official.

Also, over 10 million mu (about 709,000 hectares) of farmland in Hunan have been directly impacted by the drought, with 1.79 million mu of crops rendered unharvestable.

Additionally, water levels in 30 percent of Hunan's reservoirs have dropped below "acceptable" levels, preventing them from being used for irrigation, the official said.

Dongting Lake, China's second largest freshwater lake, has seen its water surface shrink to 780 square kilometers, more than 30 percent less than the level in normal years, according to the official.

The lake's amount of cumulative rainfall has dropped by 50 to 60 percent in comparison to records from previous years, according to the provincial meteorological station.

The Hunan provincial government has already allocated 310 million yuan (about 47.8 million U.S. dollars) toward drought-relief efforts, including digging new wells and pumping water into the province from other areas.

Hunan's neighboring province Hubei is also overwhelmed by the lingering drought, with increasing cities and towns hit by severe or extreme drought, which will greatly damage crops and affect the natural environment.

Hubei will see more than thirty cities plagued by the extreme drought by Wednesday, according to the weather forecast released by the provincial meteorological department on Monday.

In Jiangxi Province, which borders Hubei, the average rainfall in the province from January to May is 431 mm, 47 percent less than the same period from previous years, which is the least amount recorded since 1959 when the province began recording its weather.

In Anhui Province, a major rice and wheat production base in China, drought has threatened over eight million mu (533,333 hectares) of rice, which needed artificial irrigation. Water is also needed for the 23 million mu of wheat in the province, according to the provincial flood control and drought relief headquarters.

In Jiangsu Province bordering Anhui, more than 2,000 vessels have been prevented from sailing in Yangzhou City as the water level of the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal was too low due to the drought, said Wang Xuehong, deputy director of the city's marine bureau.

Shanghai is also experiencing its longest period of no precipitation in 138 years, having received only 132.9 mm of rainfall since the beginning of this year, the lowest level since 1873, according to a report released on Monday by the Shanghai Municipal Meteorological Bureau.

Drought has affected 3.29 million people and 950,000 livestock in the provinces of Jiangsu, Anhui, Jiangxi, Hubei, and Hunan, according to the latest statistics from the Office of State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters (SFDH).

Zhang Xu, deputy director of the SFDH, said the five provinces are beginning to struggle with water shortages as the summer farming season begins. There have also been drinking water shortages, he said.