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Toughest drought since 1983

AT 66, Yangjen walks at least 3 kilometers every afternoon to carry home two buckets of water - only enough for cooking and drinking.

Affected by the worst drought in more than two decades, her village in Lhunzhub County in Tibet's capital Lhasa has cracks in the fields and crops are withering.

"This is the worst drought I can remember," said Yangjen. Her family's well, which used to provide enough drinking and irrigation water for her family of five, has been dry for a week. "For several nights, I dreamed that it rained."

Villagers worry that the worst is still to come. "Drought has destroyed the highland barley and vegetables. The withered plants can only feed cattle," said villager Chungkyi.

In addition to Lhasa, the drought has hit 27 counties in five of all six prefectures in Tibet, according to the regional drought and flood control headquarters.

It said the drought had destroyed nearly 30,000 hectares of cropland - about one-eighth of Tibet's total arable land.

"The figure is increasing day by day," said Lan Zhiming, deputy head of the regional agriculture and animal husbandry department. "Our data shows this is the worst drought since 1983."

Records of the regional weather bureau show that most parts of Tibet reported at least a 30-percent drop in rain since summer began in May. In Lhasa, Xigaze and Shannan, in particular, precipitation was down by 70 to 80 percent.

"In the dry areas, one can dig 40 centimeters into the soil without feeling even the slightest moisture," said Pagor, an official in charge of agriculture in Shannan.

The regional government sounded an emergency alarm on Tuesday and has since allocated relief funds and supplies to the worst-hit counties.

"In most counties, excavators are in place to dig deeper wells. We are also preparing to create artificial rain when conditions are ripe," said Gong Tongliang, an official with the regional drought and flood control headquarters.

He said governments were working all-out to provide drinking water.

In Dranang County of Shannan Prefecture, a 10-meter deep well that used to provide drinking water for a primary school dried up two weeks ago. The local government has sent a tractor to carry spring water from mountains 2km away.



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