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Sichuan Water to Ease Chongqing Drought
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The central government has ordered water facilities in Southwest China's Sichuan Province to help the drought-stricken city of Chongqing, the largest municipality in China.


From Friday, as requested by the State Headquarters for Flood and Drought-Control, seven hydropower stations started pumping water into the Jialing River, the most important water resource for the city of 30 million.


Located in the upper reaches of the river, the hydropower stations are expected to discharge a total of 8 million cubic meters of water by Saturday.


Lu Feng, spokesman of the Chongqing Water Conservancy Bureau, told China Daily, "Sichuan provincial government has promised to supply 8 million cubic meters of water every day until the arrival of the Jialing flood season," which usually begins on May 1.


"The amount of water will be enough to maintain the normal water level of the Jialing River and ensure adequate water in major urban areas of Chongqing," he said.


He said the Chongqing municipal government had written to thank the Sichuan provincial government.


"Sichuan could face difficulties in generating enough power for its own use and could suffer from economic losses," Lu said.


Sichuan is the country's largest province in terms of exploitable hydropower resources.


Severe drought since last autumn has had a debilitating effect on Chongqing, leaving 1.5 million people and 980,000 livestock short of drinking water in its 14 districts and counties.



The amount of water stored in Chongqing's reservoirs is about 1.17 billion cubic meters, less than half of normal storage.


Although the city's major urban areas will now have enough water, thanks to help from Sichuan, Chongqing has to send water trucks into the hard-hit rural areas to deliver drinking water to 13,500 people, Lu said.



On Tuesday, Chongqing started digging wells in its rural areas. "It plans to dig between 13,000 and 15,000 wells," said Yu Yuanmu, vice-mayor of Chongqing.


The Chongqing Municipal Hydrological Bureau said water levels in the Yangtze and Jialing rivers had declined sharply in recent weeks due to a lack of rainfall.


Impact on shipping


The low water levels have played havoc with shipping. A cargo ship carrying 1,400 tons of timber was stranded last Sunday near the city's Xinggang Port.


On Monday, the Chongqing Maritime Bureau suspended shipping in the area between 12:30 P.M. and 2:30 P.M. each day so that dredging works could be carried out, said Zhang Li, an official with the Chongqing Waterway Bureau.


Chongqing is still reeling from a severe drought last summer, the worst in decades, which resulted in the municipal government's decision to send 100,000 farmers to northwestern Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region to pick cotton to mitigate their economic losses, Lu said.


(China Daily March 3, 2007)


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