Light rain and government efforts have helped relieve China's worst drought in half a century, but the battle is still far from over, authorities say.
Mild showers and induced rain dumped between 5 and 26 mm of precipitation in drought-stricken regions from Saturday to Monday morning, the China Meteorological Administration said on its website Monday.
But the rain is expected to be short lived, it added.
Increased irrigation and light rainfalls have significantly reduced the area of affected land, Xinhua quoted the Office of the State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters as saying.
As of yesterday, the acreage of drought-hit farmland was reduced by 23 million mu (1.67 million hectares) and that of cropland by 24.37 million mu, the office said.
The country still has 276 million mu of farmland and 136 million mu of cropland hit by the drought, which had left 3.46 million people and 1.66 million livestock short of drinking water as of yesterday, it said.
The area of affected winter wheat in the eight provinces of Hebei, Shanxi, Anhui, Jiangsu, Henan, Shandong, Shaanxi and Gansu stood at 130 million mu.
Premier Wen Jiabao told officials to give "top priority" to drought relief work during his visit to Henan province on Feb 7 and 8.
Drought-stricken wheat-producing areas in the eight provinces had been reduced to 158 million mu on Sunday, 4,700,000 mu less than the day before, the Ministry of Agriculture said on its website yesterday.
It said 53.8 percent of drought-hit fields in the eight provinces had been irrigated and 30.7 percent of them had been fertilized.
In Henan, the country's biggest wheat producer, the average rainfall exceeded 10 mm in its 30 counties and cities.
The provincial authority fired 6,365 shells and 875 rockets loaded with cloud-seeding chemicals into the sky.
Workers equip the aircraft with catalystic silver iodide for the mission of artificial rainfall operations at Xinzheng International Airport in Zhengzhou, capital of central China's Henan Province, Feb. 8, 2009. A couple of "Transport 7" aircraft of China's Air Force performed artificial rainfall operations in Huaibei of east China's Anhui Province, and Luoyang and Kaifeng of central China's Henan Province separately to relieve local drought on Sunday. [Xinhua]
Shanxi also fired 420 shells and 308 rockets, dispatching airplanes with cloud-seeding chemicals which brought the rainfall of some 180 million tons.
A total of 87 counties in central and southern provinces welcomed rain.
The central government yesterday provided 10 million yuan (US$1.5 million) of special funding to induce rain.
But some farmers say it is not enough.
Li Minping, a wheat farmer in Yaodu village of Shanxi's Yuncheng city, said the showers were not enough to salve his parched 32-hectare wheat field.
"Now I still need to hire people to dig a motor-pumped well, which costs at least 60,000 yuan (US$8,800)," said the 55-year-old.
He said the drought would lead to a loss of about 150,000 yuan for him. "I hope the government could provide us a subsidy or loan."
(China Daily February 10, 2009)