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Dry Year Ahead for Yellow River
Experts with the Yellow River water resource committee have called for more measures to save water as shortages affecting the nation's second longest river worsen this year.

The Yellow River, dubbed "China's Sorrow" because of its disastrous floods over the centuries, has been running low in recent years because of excessive water use.

Zhang Guangdou, a professor in water conservancy, said saving water was the key to securing water resources.

Northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region has imposed a water consumption quota to deal with the shortages.

Local authorities said they would better manage and allocate water resources and drill wells to extract as much water as possible to ensure this year's harvest.

Water Resources Minister Wang Shucheng said the shortages farmers in the Yellow River basin faced could be solved by using water more efficiently. Water supplies from outside the region would be mainly used to develop other, more profitable industries.

For example, in the tourist spot of Dunhuang in Northwest China's Gansu Province, water used for farming would be better used to support the boom in tourism, to alleviate poverty.

The Yellow River has changed dramatically over the past decades. The average volume of river water flowing to the sea has decreased by 75 percent since the 1950s.

In the 1990s, 70 percent of the river water was being used -- a figure 30 percent higher than the international standard.

The average volume of water in the Yellow River has dropped to only 58 billion cubic meters a year affecting the 10,100 reservoirs in its drainage area of 72 billion cubic meters.

The water shortage in the Yellow River has also affected the social and economic development of the villages, towns, industries and people that depend on it.

The hydropower stations in both Northwest China's Gansu and Qinghai provinces have reduced their electricity production dramatically. Farmers are also thirsty for water.

And the water shortage will worsen the phenomenon known as the "hanging river." The river bed in the lower reaches of the Yellow River is now higher than the surrounding fields.

Early this year, a substantial amount of sediment contributed to the silting of the river channel, significantly raising the river bed and creating a second "hanging river" on top of the first.

(China Daily April 7, 2003)

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