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Salt Tides, Drought Blight South

Continuing drought in south China has worsened saltwater contamination of fresh water, threatening supplies to homes and industries, and damaging crops in Guangdong's coastal areas.


"We haven't had a single drop of rain this autumn," said Liu Chenguang, deputy director of the Zhuhai Water Resources Department.


On western Guangdong's Leizhou Peninsula, where agriculture and forestry play a vital role in economic development, the situation is particularly grave.


More than 23,333 hectares of farmland in the coastal cities of Zhanjiang, Maoming and Yangjiang, have dried up.


Water in reservoirs in the western and eastern parts of Guangdong is also ebbing away.


By the end of last week, water reserves in Zhanjiang totaled just 850 million cubic meters, 38 percent less than at the same time last year when 1.29 billion cubic meters of water were available.


In some areas, residents are suffering drinking water shortages, an official from Guangdong Provincial Anti-Drought Headquarters said yesterday.


Worryingly, the drought is gradually spreading to the prosperous Pearl River Delta region.


Water levels in the Xijiang, Beijiang and Dongjiang rivers, the three major tributaries of the Pearl River, have all fallen as the area enters its dry season.


According to Guangdong Provincial Meteorological Observatory, the drought will not be eased until spring, with little rainfall forecast over the coming months.


Affected by the drought, the coastal cities of Zhuhai and Zhongshan, in the western part of the Pearl River Delta, and Guangzhou have reportedly been hit by salt tides. The salt tides have struck at least a month earlier than last year.


The city launched a water diversion program in March, to collect fresh water from the Pearl River, the official said. The project was proposed by the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference Zhuhai Committee.


(China Daily November 1, 2005)

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