The Yangtze, China's longest river, is gripped by a rare drought this summer with water in many sections of the river at historically low levels.
The Yangtze River Hydrological Bureau said that, in August, the volume of water entering the Three Gorges Reservoir, in the middle reaches of the river, was only 8,400 cubic meters per second, about the same as the February dry season.
The bureau's monitoring station in Yichang City, Hubei Province, home to the Three Gorges Reservoir, the world's largest hydro-power project, said the local hydrological figure set a new low record.
River navigation authorities have reinforced patrols and assistance operations along the waterway, warnings vessels against running aground.
Flood control experts say that the river's flood season will end in a month. Despite the current drought, summer or even autumn flooding is still a possibility.
Weather forecasts offer little hope of rainfall in the next few days in the upper and middle reaches of the river, including Sichuan, Hubei provinces and Chongqing Municipality, where farming is suffering from the blistering drought.
Southwest China's Chongqing Municipality is suffering the worst drought of the past 50 years. Water supplies for nearly 7.5 million people have been threatened, local authorities said Monday.
To date, more than 19 million mu (1.3 million hectares) of cropland have been affected and more than 6.8 million head of livestock are facing temporary water shortages, according to a spokesman with the Chongqing Municipal Disaster Relief Office.
"Two thirds of the communities and townships in the municipality have reported water supply difficulties," he said.
The drought has caused direct economic losses of about 2.5 billion yuan (US$312.5 million), including nearly 1.8 billion yuan (US$225 million) in the agricultural sector, he said.
The drought struck Chongqing in early July, 10 to 15 days earlier than in past years. But in total the dry spell has lasted for more than 50 days in most areas in the municipality, and 70 days in some, the spokesman said.
Since July, there have been 13 to 24 high temperature days in most parts of Chongqing, with maximum temperatures of 38 to 40 degrees Celsius, he said.
Prolonged high temperatures and scarce rain have dried out two thirds of the rivers in the municipality, said a spokesman with Chongqing Waterway Bureau.
In neighboring Sichuan Province, the drought has made it difficult for more than 3 million people and 4 million livestock to access drinking water. Meanwhile, nearly 21 million mu (1.4 million hectares) of cropland have been affected, or 39 percent of the total in the drought-hit areas.
The drought has caused direct economic losses of more than 7 billion yuan (US$8.75 billion), according to the provincial disaster relief office.
"Sichuan is suffering its worst drought since 1972," said Zhang Shilin, director of the office responsible for artificially influencing weather.
In a bid to relieve the drought, Sichuan will trigger artificial rain in 12 cities, including the provincial capital of Chengdu, if weather conditions permit, Zhang said.
Local governments in the drought-affected areas have allocated funds to help residents tap ground water and improve water conservation facilities.
Government departments concerned have been asked to make daily reports on the drought situation.
(Xinhua News Agency August 15, 2006)