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Drought continues in north, northeast China
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A number of regions in the north and northeast part of China were still fighting a continuous drought that could affect spring farming.

Serious drought began to hit many big cities and prefectures of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in the north, including Hulun Buir, Baotou, Ordos and Xilingol, early this month because of reduced rainfall since December, the autonomous regional meteorological bureau said Thursday.

Different localities received a maximum of 20 millimeters of rainfall over the past four months, up to 70 percent less than the corresponding period of previous years, according to Li Yunpeng, official with the meteorological center of ecology and agriculture.

The drought would continue in the region until the first spring rain comes in mid April, said Li.

Meteorological authorities called for measures to maintain soil moisture for the upcoming spring sowing.

A severe drought in the neighboring Hebei Province had affected 3 million hectares of cropland and left residents in some areas short of drinking water.

It is the 12th consecutive spring drought in the province, which only received seven millimeters of rainfall on average since the winter, about 60 percent less than normal years.

The drought had lowered underground water levels by one to two meters in plain areas and left 50,000 wells useless.

In Heilongjiang Province in northeast China, nearly 5.8 million hectares of cropland, about half of the total farming acreage, were in dire need of irrigation, official statistics show.

At least 53 counties were suffering from an average soil moisture of 70 percent, leaving 74 percent of the farmland in slightly dry situation.

Many middle and large reservoirs had reported insufficient water storage, and both underground and river water levels were dropping.

Zhaoyuan county had managed to store 60 million cubic meters of water by collecting ice in the freezing Songhua River, in response to the government call for exploring water resources to ensure agricultural harvest.

In the neighboring Liaoning Province, the drought was temporarily alleviated thanks to a rainfall last Wednesday and the soil thawing in spring. However, the western part of the province was still suffering from dry soil measured as thick as seven centimeters.

Local meteorological authorities urged artificial rainmaking efforts to increase soil moisture.

Other provinces including Jilin and Shandong were also trying hard to prevent the spread of the drought by preparing cloud seeding, digging wells and building other water facilities to increase water supply.

(Xinhua News Agency, March 21, 2008)

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