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196,000 people suffer water shortage in NW China
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More than 196,000 residents in northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region are suffering drinking water shortage because of a drought of almost half a year, local authorities said Thursday.

According to the regional department of water resources, in the first half of this year, rainfall totals in the arid area of central Ningxia decreased to only 30 percent to 70 percent of those in same period of previous years. A 20-day heat wave above 35 degree Celsius in June made the drought even worse.

Rains across Ningxia from July 6 to July 8 eased the drought in some towns and mountainous areas, but the situation in other parts was still tough, officials said.

Up to Thursday, the drought had hit 35 towns, involving 196,000 residents, 172,000 livestock and 1.14 million goats. Most people there have to fetch water from 10 kilometers away and it generally cost 40 yuan to 70 yuan (US$5.9 to 10.2) per tonne.

Ma Yanfu, a farmer from a village with 98 families in Tongxin County, told Xinhua that residents had to fetch water from 30 kilometers away as drought had dried up all the 294 water cellars gathering rainfalls in his village.

"It cost me 100 yuan to fetch water per tonne," Ma said.

Drinking water shortage has long been a great concern for China. The regional government has built small and medium-sized water-supply projects since the 1980s, including programs to improve water quality and the gathering capability of cellars.

The regional government launched a project in 2006 to enlarge former facilities, build water stations for nearby villagers and relocate those who live in the remote mountainous areas with no surface water or groundwater.

The project will be finished by 2010 as scheduled. So far 80 percent has been finished, said Li Kewen, head of the office for the Regional Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters.

"But it has not covered some remote mountainous areas where 196,000 people are suffering drinking water shortage this year," Li said. "As they mainly rely on cellars to collect rainfall or snow for drinking water, shortage will not ease up until 2010."

(Xinhua News Agency July 17, 2009)

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