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41 pct Chinese to live in flood-prone areas by 2020
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Forty-one percent of China's population will be living in economically-developed areas and cities that are prone to floods by 2020, Chen Lei, Minister of Water Resources, said in Beijing Friday.

"With the rapid economic and social development, population and wealth are converging on economically-developed areas and cities," said Chen, also deputy commander-in-chief of the Office of State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters.

"By 2020, the cities in the middle and lower reaches of China's major rivers will accommodate 600 million people," he said.

About 67 percent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP), or 26 trillion yuan, (3.5 trillion U.S. dollars) will come from these regions, he said, stressing that flood control is becoming "increasingly important".

The economic impact of floods on China's economy is greater than that felt by developed nations, said Chen, citing China's annual direct economic losses from floods since the 1990s at 110 billion yuan.

"This accounts for 1.8 percent of the national GDP, much higher than figures in the U.S. and Japan, which are 0.03 percent and 0.22 percent, respectively," he said.

So far this year, floods have affected 180 million people in 31 Chinese regions including Chongqing, Henan and Anhui, with 1,203 people killed, according to figures from the headquarters.

Figures also show that flash floods and mud slides are responsible for more than 70 percent of the death toll.

From the end of July to early August this year, almost 200 people were killed in heavy rainstorms on the borders of central China's Henan, Shaanxi and Shanxi provinces.

The floods this year also ruined 12 million hectares of crops and destroyed more than one million houses, leading to a direct economic loss of 107.1 billion yuan.

According to Chen, the flood department has been making headway in flood control, building more flood defence facilities and improving monitoring and forecasting systems.

Chen said this year's death toll resulting from floods were down by half from normal years and economic losses were reduced to one fifth.

(Xinhua News Agency, December 7, 2007)

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