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Drought-hit Farmers Receive Winter Relief
The local government of east China's Shandong Province has handed out 180 million yuan (US$21.8 million) in relief funds and supplied more than 9,090 kilograms of grain from government storehouses to help the drought-stricken province's 9 million farmers through the winter.

"We will help every sufferer to live through the hard period, and will not let them go begging because of poverty," said Qi Fenghai, head of the Shandong Civil Affairs Department.

Qi said starting from the beginning of this year Shandong Province has given out a total of 180 million yuan (US$21.8 million) in relief funds, including 86 million from the central government.

The official said various levels of government in the province are still raising money to help the suffering farmers. The large scale relief fund will be extended further among the farmers before Spring Festival, the New Year in the Chinese lunar calendar, which falls on February 1.

Grain lending, after trials in some areas, has begun in earnest in some cities in the western part of the province. Borrowers can repay the grain next summer or autumn.

How much grain the farmers will need in the next few months is still unknown. The official said distribution of relief funds will come before the grain assistance.

Statistics from the local water resources bureau show that the amount of rain that has fallen since late August has been the least in the past 50 years.

More than 48 million people and 5 million hectares of crop land have been affected in some way. More than 3 million hectares have been seriously affected, and one-third yielded nothing this autumn.

The central and western parts of the province, including Heze, Jining, Liaocheng, Jinan, Zibo, Binzhou and Dongying, are the most parched.

In late October the province pumped in more than 800 million cubic meters of water from the upper reaches of the country's second-largest river, the Yellow River.

Although the diverted water provided a temporary respite from desperate water shortages for autumn planting and domestic use, the local people are still suffering from food shortages due to the stunted autumn crop harvest.

Shandong is one of China's largest agricultural provinces, as well as being densely populated. The 9.01 million drought-hit people, who need about 770,000 tons of grain, account for one-tenth of the province's total population.

Wei Xiangyang, a farmer from Yongfeng Village of Zhanhua County in Binzhou, expects to have a good winter now that he has received hundreds of yuan in relief funds from the village and has borrowed 200 kilograms of wheat from the local town grain station. This autumn Wei and other villagers have harvested only half of the crops they did in past years. They were scraping on the family's meager savings before they got help from the government.

(China Daily December 7, 2002)

Persistent Drought Makes Water Saving Urgent
Diverted Water for Arid North
State Approves Gargantuan Water Diversion Project
Yellow River Water Released to Thirsty Shandong
Flood Relief Gets More State Emergency Funds
Efforts Made to Tackle Drought in North China
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