China drought threatens water supplies: state media

BEIJING, Monday 24 January 2011 (AFP) - A months-long dry spell across northern China is threatening drinking water supplies and crops, and more bone-dry conditions are expected, state media said Monday.

The capital Beijing has had no significant precipitation in more than three months, the longest such spell in the city in 40 years, the Beijing Times said.

The dry conditions in Shandong province along the northeastern coast are the worst in more than 60 years and have left hundreds of thousands of people facing drinking water shortages, the China Daily reported.

Northern China has for years battled a water shortage that experts say is caused by global warming, drought, and surging consumption, especially among the tens of millions of people who live in Beijing and booming adjacent areas.

About 90 percent of winter wheat seedlings around the sprawling city of 20 million have wilted dangerously, the Beijing Times quoted the city weather bureau's climate chief Chen Dagang as saying.

City reservoirs that had dwindled for years were expected to be particularly hard-hit this year by the lack of replenishing winter snows and no end in sight to the dry conditions, it quoted Beijing's water resources bureau as saying.

Rainfall in heavily-populated Shandong has dropped by 86 percent since October and as many as 300,000 people could soon face water shortages, up from the current 240,000, the China Daily said, quoting drought relief officials.

In some areas, local authorities have sent fire trucks to deliver drinking water to citizens, it said.

Authorities have launched a project to divert water from a tributary of the Yangtze River -- China's longest -- in the central part of the country to help alleviate the north's water woes.

Water was originally due to begin flowing from the central line to Beijing by 2010 but was postponed to 2014 largely due to the issues arising from the resettlement of people affected by the huge undertaking, media reports have said.

MySinchew 2011.01.24