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Severe Drought Likely to Last into Spring
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Meteorologists say a severe drought is hitting parts of China's northwest and is likely to last till spring, given the higher-than-normal temperatures and inadequate rainfall this year.


The drought is likely to affect agricultural production of the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region in spring, as most parts of the Muslim community reported an average temperature rise of two to three degrees Celsius and at least a 25-percent drop in rainfall over the past 10 months, said Xia Puming, head of the regional meteorological bureau.


The average soil humidity was between six and eight percent in the dry belt covering the central and southern parts of the region, lower by at least two percent than last year, according to the bureau's investigation.


Meteorological experts have advised local farmers to cut next year's summer grain production and grow more potatoes, corns and other plants that easily survive the arid climate.


A latest meteorological report said drinking water has become a problem for 500,000 people and 1.08 million head of livestock in Xinjiang in China's northwestern outback, where drought has affected 400,000 hectares of cropland and nearly 3 million hectares of pasture.


Though northwest China is usually drier than the southern and eastern regions, it said the current drought situation in Xinjiang is worse than last spring, when drought-plagued farmland was no more than 320,000 hectares.


The average temperature in Xinjiang's regional capital Urumqi in the past eight months was higher by 3.6 degrees Celsius than usual and in Hetian, a prefecture famous for quality jadeware, the difference was a record 5.1 degrees.


Lack of rainfall was reported everywhere and in the dries areas in the southern areas, rain volume dropped by 90 percent from last year, said Shi Yuguang, head of Xinjiang's meteorological bureau.


The arid climate is felt even on the snow-capped plateaus in the remote northern and eastern areas of Xinjiang, where snow coverage shrank by 30 to 90 percent, said Shi.


(Xinhua News Agency November 20, 2006)

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