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July 17, 2009

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Six-month drought leads to big water shortage in Ningxia

MORE than 196,000 residents in northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region faced a water shortage due to a six-month drought, authorities said yesterday.

According to the regional department of water resources, in the first half of this year, rainfall totals in the arid area of central Ningxia were 30 to 70 percent lower than in the same period in previous years. A 20-day heat wave with temperatures above 35 degrees Celsius exacerbated the drought last month.

Three days of rain eased the drought in some towns and mountainous areas last week, but the situation in other regions remained tough, officials said.

As of yesterday, the drought had hit 35 towns, involving 196,000 residents and 1.31 million livestock. Most people in these towns need to travel 10 kilometers to fetch water.

Ma Yanfu, a farmer from a village with 98 families in Tongxin County, said residents had to fetch water from 30 kilometers away as the drought had dried up all 294 water cellars used to gather rainfall in his village.

"It costs 100 yuan (US$14.64) per ton of water," Ma said.

Drinking water shortages have long been a great concern for China. The regional government has built small and medium-sized water-supply projects since the 1980s, including programs to improve water quality and cellars.

The regional government launched a project in 2006 to enlarge former facilities, build water stations for nearby villagers and relocate people who live in remote mountainous areas with no surface water or groundwater.

The project will finish on schedule next year. About 80 percent of the work has been finished, said Li Kewen, head of the office for the regional flood control and drought relief headquarters.

"But it has not covered some remote mountainous areas where 196,000 people face a drinking water shortage this year," Li said. "As they mainly rely on cellars to collect rainfall or snow for drinking water, shortages will not ease until next year."


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