About 3.6 million people are having difficulty getting access to drinking water as a rare drought has plagued most parts of Southwest China's Yunnan Province at this rice-planting season.
According to the local meteorological department, the dry weather has continued for two months, hitting everything from drinking water supplies to livestock husbandry, from tobacco growing to flower markets.
Some areas are also reeling from power shortages as a result of the low level of water at local hydropower stations.
"The power outage is very frequent and has an effect everywhere recently," said Zhao Hongmei, an elementary school teacher in Dali, an ancient city mainly populated by the Bai ethnic group.
"The temperature is higher than usual, and people's lives are affected. We have to use candles for illumination at night."
But she said her school is still operating, though some courses, such as computer lessons, have been cancelled because of the lack of power.
In Luxi - an ethnic habitation 178 kilometers southwest of Kunming, the provincial capital, and an area being hit hardest - a meteorological bureau official said that tobacco seedlings are almost dead.
But in Kunming, citizens haven't noticed much difference. "We are not short of water supplies," Yunnan University graduate student Li Chengjun said. "We do have power outages occasionally, but that's normal."
The provincial government has allocated 40 million yuan (US$4.8 million) to alleviate the drought and has decided to purchase electricity from neighboring provinces.
Yunnan Province, usually rich in hydropower, transmits much of its power every year to such coastal areas as Guangdong Province to support development there.
As a result, some of its areas suffer power outages from time to time.
According to weather forecasts, desert-like conditions are going to linger in Yunnan for a while.
(China Daily May 28, 2005)