02/26/2008, 00.00
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Beijing risks Olympic-size thirst

There's a water shortage in the north after a winter of scarce rain. Hebei, which must supply water to Beijing, doesn't even have enough for its own needs.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Water supplies for the Olympics are at risk.  The northern province of Hebei, which provides most of the drinking water for the 16 million inhabitants of Beijing, has been struck by a serious drought, because of a lack of winter rain, which will lead to drinking water shortages for at least 500,000 residents.

While in the south of the country the winter has been very cold, with unusually large amounts of snow, there's been a drought in the north. In Hebei, rainfall has been 60% less than the average, the reservoir levels are 1-2 metres below where they were in 2007, and it is estimated that there will not be enough water for the civilian and agricultural demands of the province itself.  Beijing, however, expects a 30% increase in water demand during the Olympics, and has asked for an additional 300 million cubic feet per day.  For this purpose, they are finalising the construction of 309 kilometres of canals and aqueducts from Hebei to Beijing to bring water from four dams in particular.  But a number of dams have very little water now.

Beijing has also seen very little winter precipitation, and about 2.43 million people are experiencing shortages of drinking water in Shandong, Heilongjiang, and Hebei. 1.89 million farm animals are also affected, and the drought is thought to affect 33,000 square kilometres of farmland out of 190,000.

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