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October 19, 2009

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Water shortages hit south China

SEVERE drought over the past months has stunted rice crops, threatened reservoirs and left hundreds of thousands of people short of drinking water in southern Chinese provinces.

In the southern Guangdong Province, where rain in the first 10 months fell by 14 percent compared with averages in past years, more than 55,000 hectares of cropland are affected and 50,000 people are facing difficulties in getting drinking water because of the drought.

Water level in Guangdong's dams continued to drop. According to Guangdong Provincial Flooding and Drought Relief Headquarters, water levels in Guangdong's 32 key reservoirs have reported a year-on-year decrease of 2.34 billion cubic meters.

The drought is continuing to take a toll on agricultural production in the province.

"I've never seen such a severe drought in my life," said a 73-year-old farmer in Zhoutian Township, Shaoguan City. "A great deal of crops have been damaged."

There have also been concerns of further crop damage as drought harms plants' ability to weather the winter.

In Nan'ao Island of Shantou City, home to more than 70,000 people, drought has left residents struggling to bathe and do the laundry.

More than 70,000 people in Zhangzhou City in the southeastern Fujian Province are also short of drinking water.

Hydraulic experts attribute the water shortage to the lingering drought as well as a shortage of reservoirs, where construction has lagged behind China's industrialization and urbanization.

In the central Hunan Province, low water levels in Dongting Lake, China's second largest fresh water lake, have forced local fishermen out of work.

"October used to be a 'golden season' for fishing in the lake," said fisherman Gong Jianmin. "But now we can't go out to fish since the low water period has come early this year because of the drought."

In eastern Jiangxi Province, most cities have recorded a 66 percent drop in rainfall.


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