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Drought leaves 250,000 short of drinking water in N China
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About 250,000 people in north China’s Hebei Province, which neighbors Beijing, face drinking water shortages as a severe winter drought lingers, government authorities said on Monday.

The number could double next month, the provincial water conservancy department said. Some 3.3 million hectares of crops have also been affected.

The usable water in provincial reservoirs amounts to 1.9 billion cubic meters, less than one third of capacity and 500 million cubic meters below the long-term average. Some reservoirs have gone dry, according to the department.

Department statistics showed that the province had received only seven millimeters of rain in most areas since last winter, down nearly 60 percent from normal years.

Meanwhile, the water table in the plains area is one to two meters lower than last year and up to three meters lower in several areas. This development has rendered 50,000 motorized wells in the province useless. Some 170,000 wells are short of water.

The local government has earmarked 1.9 billion yuan (265.7 million U.S. dollars) to fight the effects of the drought since 2007, built 220,000 drought-relief projects and added 36,000 ha of irrigated areas.

A severe drought that began last winter had affected 11.1 million ha of land in northern China, the State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters reported on Sunday.

(Xinhua News Agency February 26, 2008)

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