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Beijing Gearing up for Drought

The nation's capital is facing a sixth straight year of drought, according to officials, with water levels at two major city reservoirs falling to their lowest point in history. 

Zheng Qiuli, an official with the Beijing Water Resources Bureau, said the bureau staff have teamed up with meteorological department officials to try to take advantage of every opportunity to make artificial rainfall this year.


The time span for rain-making has been expanded to between April and September from the previous three month period usually prescribed, said Zheng.


Meanwhile, two airplanes will join in the rain-making effort for the first time, along with rockets and ack-acks, she added.


Statistics show that artificial precipitation added 23.8 million cubic meters of water to the city's reservoirs last year.


The amount of rainfall equals 46 times the water volume of the Shichahai Lake in downtown Beijing.


Meteorological experts say Beijing has entered its most severe drought period since 1949.


They predict the amount of precipitation between June and August, which generally makes up 85 percent of the total annual precipitation, will only be 400-450 millimeters this year. That is far less than the average 580 millimeters per year experienced over past decades.


At a bureau working conference on Monday, officials announced the agriculture sector and other sectors should prepare for fighting drought again this year.


Ordinary people in Beijing will be impacted by the worsening situation, with price hikes for water expected and water-saving devices likely becoming necessary.


New water-consuming projects, such as paper making and textile mills, will face a thumbs down from the municipal government.


Zheng said her bureau will try to make use of floods and torrential rain to replenish water resources this year, rather than just preventing the damage caused by floods as in past years.


Since the Miyun Reservoir and the Guanting Reservoir, Beijing's two major reservoirs can hardly meet the demand of the growing population and expanding industry, the city plans to sink five wells on its outskirts to pump more ground water.


The five wells are expected to supply Beijing a total of 400 million cubic meters of water annually when all go into operation, according to the bureau.


The first well on the northern outskirts already went into operation last September.


The second well in the southeast of Beijing was also sunk in early April, one month earlier than scheduled.


The third well in Pinggu on the northeastern suburbs is expected to be put into operation in July, according to the bureau.


(China Daily April 8, 2004)

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