Beijing Water

Rainfall brings only brief respite to drought-hit regions

SCMP
August 22, 2006

Rain brought some relief from the mainland’s worst drought in 50 years to Chongqing and Sichuan province yesterday, but government officials cautioned it was too early to announce an end to the disaster.

Chingqing: Rain brought some relief from the mainland’s worst drought in 50 years to Chongqing and Sichuan province yesterday, but government officials cautioned it was too early to announce an end to the disaster. Since Sunday night, about half of Chongqing’s districts and counties have had rain, some man-made, bringing the coolest weather this month. In many districts, local governments used planes and fired rockets from the back of trucks to seed clouds and induce rain. Temperatures dropped below 40 degrees Celsius, with maximums in the mid-30s. Despite the respite, the local weather forecaster said the rainfall would not have an “obvious” impact on the drought. The disaster has caused economic losses of 3.8 billion yuan and left 7.8 million people facing shortages of drinking water in Chongqing, the country’s worst-affected area, according to the latest figures.

In Sichuan, about 4.9 million people were experiencing drinking water shortages, with economic damage put at 8.9 billion yuan, the provincial government said. The National Meteorological Centre said Chongqing and Sichuan could expect rain for the next three days, Xinhua reported. As rain started falling in the massive plaza around the Liberation Monument in the centre of Chongqing city, few people opened umbrellas as they welcomed the cooling shower. At the city’s main wharf, the water level rose by 2 metres, reaching the stone steps lining the bank. Some walked along the south bank of the Yangtze River to catch the breeze blowing off the water, which had already risen because of rain further upstream. “It finally rained. It’s much cooler now,” said a young man standing by the river. But local officials are still expressing concern.

Although more rain is expected this week, the government forecasts high temperatures could return. In an open letter to residents issued yesterday by Chongqing’s disaster prevention authorities, the government said: “We must make all efforts to guarantee the city’s normal production, orderly life and social stability.” Fish prices have risen by at least 20 per cent in the city because rivers and lakes have dried up, cutting supplies. Some restaurants are out of fresh shrimp and tell customers the dish is no longer available. In Bishan county, near Chongqing’s border with Sichuan, the light rain was not enough to help the crops, most of which have dried out. “It’s only a drizzle,” said one farmer, whose corn, sweet potato and string bean plants have died. “This is the worst drought I’ve ever experienced,” said Nie Zhongchang, a 61-year-old peasant in Anju district, Suining , one of the worst-hit cities in Sichuan. “All the paddies have dried up.” Xinhua said villagers had been rationing every drop of fresh water from the one small bucket a day each family was supplied by the government. A basin of fresh water was used to wash rice and vegetables before it bathed an entire family and then fed pigs and cattle. Guangdong province has also reported high temperatures and a lack of rain for 10 consecutive days. The provincial meteorological bureau said the mercury hovered at 37 degrees in most parts of the province at the weekend and remained at 36 yesterday, Xinhua reported.

 

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