11/06/2009, 00.00
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Drought in China leaves more than 2.5 million without water

Seven southern provinces have not had rain for weeks. About 70 villages survive on one fire engine delivering water for 20,000 people every two days. The government is getting ready to fire silver iodide rockets into the sky to cause precipitation.
Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) –Two and a half million residents have run out of drinking water due to a severe drought in seven southern provinces. Precipitation has been 50 per cent below seasonal average in Jiangxi, Hunan, Guangdong, Guangxi, Fujian, Hubei and Jiangsu, causing ponds and wells to dry up.

The Office of State Flood Control (OSFC) and Drought Relief Headquarters (DRH) issued an emergency warning to drought-stricken provinces yesterday, highlighting concern among leaders and urging all levels of governments to make drinking water supply a priority. The DRH will send experts to each province, and funds will be allocated for relief operations.

In many areas, the government is using trucks to deliver drinking water. The Information Daily said the village of Gaogang in Jiangxi has needed water deliveries for more than a month.

The report also said a fire engine visited the village every few days and delivered water to a well. After drinking and washing, farmers gave the water to their animals.

Li Huanhuai, the county's drought relief director, said he had only three trucks equipped to deliver water for 20,000 people in 70 villages.

"If there is not an immediate shower, more villages and even towns will start begging for water and our small number of delivery trucks will face huge pressure," he said.

In Huizhou, Guangdong, the government mobilised people to reopen abandoned wells. More than 1,000 shallow wells are available, but in Shiba town, 30 recently drilled wells ran dry leaving 5,000 people without water.

The Fujian Daily reported that drought-relief authorities were closely monitoring conditions for a chance to induce artificially precipitation by firing 1,000 silver iodide rockets.

The country’s big dams have been put on stand-by in case they are needed to release more water for drought-stricken areas.

For some environmentalists, the dams are themselves partly to blame for the drought. The rapid filling of the Three Gorges reservoir aggravated the drought by intercepting millions of cubic metres from the upper Yangtze River, environmentalist Fan Xiao said.

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