Drought to get 'more serious'

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The drought in Southwest China will not only continue but will get even more serious, a senior water resources official said on Wednesday.

A total of 116 million mu, or 7.73 million hectares, of arable land has been affected in China as of Tuesday, up from 114 million mu last Friday, Liu Ning, vice-minister of water resources, said at a press conference in Beijing.

The drought, the worst in a century, has had a serious impact on the life of the locals and on economic development, leaving 24.25 million people and 15.84 million farm animals short of water, he said.

Liu attributed the drought in Southwest China to inadequate water storage facilities, inefficient use of water and declining river flows, besides the more obvious factors of less rainfall and higher temperatures than normal.

Recent rainfall, brought by cloud seeding in the southwestern regions, possibly provided some relief to farm production, but drinking water remains a problem, he said.

"We should be fully prepared for a longer and more serious drought," he said, adding the rainy season does not usually start in the southwestern region until late May.

Cloud seeding was initiated on Tuesday and Wednesday in the drought-stricken Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, but did little to ease the lingering drought, local weather department officials said.

The meteorological bureau of Guangxi said it had carried out 29 cloud-seeding operations to enhance rain amid drizzly and overcast weather in the region.

A spokesman with the bureau said most areas of Guangxi received rain, with downpours reported in 32 townships. However, the northwestern part of the region, worst hit by the drought, received little rainfall.

Liu also noted that the drought may expand to northern China, although conditions are far less serious than those of last year's drought in the north.

China's grain production will not be badly affected, he added, as the country's major grain production bases are in the northern areas.

The arable land in the drought-hit southwest stands at 344 million mu (23 million hectares), of which 260 million mu (17 million hectares) was used for grain production, accounting for 16 percent of the nation's total, according to Liu.

As a damage control measure, the central government had issued 6.3 billion yuan ($922.4 million) to provide financial support to drought-relief projects, alongside another 800 million yuan being allocated for general financial support in the affected areas, Liu said.

A total of 60 million cubic meters of water has been sent to drought-hit areas by constructing more than 20,000 km of pipelines and 4,307 new water projects, allocating 7,615 water tankers to help with the relief and dig 180,000 wells, he said.

According to Yu Xinwen, spokesman for the China Meteorological Administration, the government would prepare for more cloud seeding, but it would mostly rely on infrastructure building and other engineering endeavors to ease the situation.

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