1.35m people, crops and cattle in south suffer in severe drought

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 December, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 December, 2007, 12:00am

More than 1.35 million people are lacking drinking water as Guangdong and Guangxi face a severe shortage of rain.

The Guangdong Water Resources Bureau estimated that at least 249,000 people and 73,300 hectares of farmland in Guangdong had been affected by drought by last Thursday, Xinhua reported yesterday.

Bureau statistics showed the province had received only 1,453mm of rain from January, and 133 reservoirs had dried up in the province, the bureau said.

The prolonged drought also saw water levels in the Bei and Xi rivers drop considerably, leaving more than 100 cargo vessels stranded for more than two weeks.

The bureau's deputy chief, Jiang Tujun, said the province had started building water tanks and were pumping up more water to fight the drought. 'We dig wells where we can and pump up water from karst caves where we can't dig wells. We will sanitise mountain water and send water to remote places using fire engines,' Mr Jiang told CCTV.

Guangdong has faced water shortages in recent years, forcing the government to cap use in cities on the Dongjiang, or East River, which also supplies Hong Kong.

Under the scheme, cities including Heyuan, Huizhou, Dongguan, Shenzhen and Hong Kong will have to share the limited supply. The department withheld details of limits.

Declining water levels have become common on the mainland, as the average rainfall in November hit its lowest level since 1989. The country's largest rivers - the Yangtze, Yellow and Pearl - are running low.

In Guangxi, more than 1.1 million people lack drinking water as the province is suffering its worst drought in more than 50 years, according to Xinhua.

Rainfall during October and November reached 33mm, 60 per cent lower than the average. There has been no rain in December, Xinhua reported. Water levels in rivers and lakes have fallen by half from last year in mountainous areas.

About 230,000 hectares of crops have been affected, and about 496,000 cattle are also in need of drinking water.

The Guangxi government has earmarked 247 million yuan and mobilised more than 840,000 people to fight the drought.