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Water conservation efforts might not be sufficient
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Even if steps to improve conservation are undertaken, the country's thirst for water is expected to approach the limit of the available resources by 2030, a State Council circular released on Thursday said.

The document included a call for immediate and comprehensive measures to address the situation.

"Drought and water scarcity have become increasingly severe in recent years as a result of amplified socioeconomic development and global warming," the circular, published on the central government website (www.gov.cn), said.

The document said droughts have never been as frequent, widespread or destructive and have extended to all corners of the country, harming the water supply for both agriculture and industry.

According to the document, more than half of China's arable land is beyond the reach of irrigation equipment, much of which is either obsolete or not up to the task ahead. The emergency water plans for both urban and rural areas are vulnerable. Many cities still have minimal water supply sources.

Days before the circular was released, Hui Liangyu, a vice-premier and chief of the Office of State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters (SFDH), said the top priority in the fight against drought should be maintaining the safety of drinking water.

Since October, a severe drought has affected more than 1 million hectares of farmland in the South and led to water supply shortages in some areas. The Pearl River received the least rain of the preceding five decades from October to November.

Almost a quarter of a million people in Guangdong Province face drinking water shortages, the provincial hydraulics bureau reported on Thursday.

It said 249,000 people and 73,300 hectares of cropland in Guangdong have been affected by the shortage. The drought has also dried up 133 reservoirs in the province.

Between January and early December, Guangdong received only 1,450 mm of rain, down nearly 20 percent on normal years.

This year's drought, which is predicted to last through the coming spring, is the worst in a decade, the SFDH has said. Almost 40 million hectares of farmland have been affected.

In addition, 20.4 million urban residents and 27.6 million farmers have had to rely on limited drinking water supplies over the past year.

The SFDH issued a circular earlier this month that required government departments to ensure drinking water safety and to maintain an agricultural water supply for the winter and spring.

And the Ministry of Finance announced on Monday to allocate 70 million yuan ($9.46 million) to finance drought relief programs for the South.

(China Daily December 15, 2007)

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