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Shandong Hit by Worst Drought
East China's Shandong Province is now experiencing its worst drought in 100 years. Now 800,000 people are facing shortage of drinking water and more than 7 million mu (15 mu=1 hectare) of crops have withered away. The whole province has suffered an economic loss over 10 billion yuan (8.28 yuan=US$1).

"This year's drought is very severe, and now 800,000 people are facing shortage of drinking water and more than 7 million mu of crops have withered away. The whole province has suffered an economic loss over 10 billion yuan, and we will rush to Beijing to report the condition to the central authority, and ask for help", said an engineer from the local drought relief office.

The drought, which lasted from summer to autumn, has affected over 80 percent farmland of the whole province, causing temporary drinking difficulties for 3.66 million people and 1.04 million heads of livestock and forcing more than 800,000 people to buy water or carry it from far away. The Jining section of the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal has closed to navigation nearly 60 days, leaving millions of tons of coal waiting to be shipped out. A batch of major reservoirs and lakes all dried up and the Binzhou City is facing a crisis of water shortage.

Besides, the drought also caused a series of problems threatening the ecological environment of the province, including worsened pollution, salinization and invasion of seawater.

Now the main rain season has passed and there is little chance for effective, large-scale raining, a provincial government official said. All projects across the province only hold 3.6 billion cubic meters of water, no more than half of that of previous years.

The level of underground water dropped continuously and 210,000 wells didn't yield enough water and, nearly 60,000 motor-pumped wells were simply empty. Water volume that can be drawn from the Yellow River was currently reduced to 500 million cubic meters, against the total provincial holding capacity of 2.7 billion cubic meters. While 1.9 billion cubic meters are urgently needed for drought relief along the Yellow River and another 2.7 billion cubic meters are needed for autumn seeding.

The water level of the Yellow River dropped continuously and irrigation has been stopped since the water contains too much sand.

In past years the water level was two times higher than the current one, and crops nearby would die down if the drought goes on, said a farmer in Luokou.

By September 18 the major five reservoirs on the mainstream of the Yellow River held only 5.895 billion cubic meters of water available, the figure may drop to 2 billion by September or October if no water is diverted from the middle reaches. This water volume can only last until the end of November provided that lower-reach cities are supplied and rivers are kept flowing. Taking autumn planting of Henan and Shandong provinces into consideration, by the end of next month there will be no water supply from the Xiaolangdi Reservoir.

(Xinhua News Agency September 20, 2002)

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