South China's Guangdong Province may divert water from other southern and southwestern areas to help fight the extended drought and the salt tide currently plaguing the Pearl River Delta.
Vice Governor Li Ronggen said at a conference in Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong, that provincial water conservation departments are in talks with the Ministry of Water Resources and their counterparts in southwest China's Guizhou Province and south China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.
Guangdong needs over 12 billion tons of fresh water before spring arrives to prevent further damage.
Many large and medium-sized reservoirs in Guizhou and Guangxi have abundant water reserves.
Guizhou's Tianshengqiao Reservoir alone has up to 10.2 billion tons, about half of which can be used.
Li said that water supplies to more than 15 million people in the delta region, Hong Kong and Macao will be affected in the coming year unless something is done to improve the situation soon.
The water is also needed to combat the worst salt tide to hit major cities in the Pearl River Delta region in 20 years. The delta borders the Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions.
Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Zhongshan, Huizhou, Dongguan and Foshan are the cities hardest hit by the salt tide.
Many waterworks on the Pearl River Delta have suspended operations because of the situation, and monitoring of local water quality has been increased.
The drought has so far affected more than 2.5 million people and several million animals in Guangdong.
By the end of November, more than 930,000 hectares of farmland in Guangdong had been seriously affected by the drought, an increase of 200,000 from the figure reported the preceding Monday, according to an official from the Guangdong Provincial Agriculture Bureau. Of that amount, 320,000 hectares were completely barren.
Guangdong's total agricultural yield is expected to fall slightly this year, the official said.
The cities most seriously affected include Jieyang, Yunfu, Zhaoqing, Meizhou, Shaoguan and Chaozhou.
The provincial government has invested more than 140 million yuan (US$17 million) in fighting the drought.
The clouds have been seeded more than 200 times this year, contributing 2 billion cubic meters of rainfall.
Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and Hainan Province have also been hit by severe droughts this year.
(China Daily December 3, 2004)