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China Drought Withers Crops, Energy, Tourism

A drought in southern China has withered crops, emptied reservoirs, cut power supplies and is threatening tourism, local officials said on Thursday.
In the hardest-hit region of Guangxi, where some officials have labeled the drought the worst in 50 years, 1,100 reservoirs have gone dry and hydropower generation cut dramatically.

China's arid north suffers regular droughts, but the south's problem every year is usually flooding following typhoons tearing in from the South China Sea.

"We haven't had a drop of rain for three months," said one anti-drought official in Guangxi.

He said people in the area were trying everything to get water -- seeding clouds, digging wells and diverting mountain springs -- but still 2.57 million people were finding it difficult to get enough to drink.

"The power supply has developed to a whole-day shortage from a peak-time shortage," the Guangxi government said in a statement.

The drought had destroyed 124,600 hectares of crops, mainly rice and sugarcane.

"Farmers in some of the hardest-hit villages will not harvest enough grain to feed even themselves," said the statement.

The official said authorities in Guilin, one of China's major tourism spots, were trying to fill the scenic Lijiang river with water from other sources to help leisure boats remain afloat.

In neighboring Guangdong, local officials said the drought had damaged late-season rice, sugarcane and vegetables, but there had been no blackouts so far.

The agriculture ministry said some 3.3 million hectares of crops had been damaged in Guangxi, Guangdong, Anhui and Hunan and drought had spread to northern provinces.

(China Daily November 4, 2004)

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