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Premier offers guidance on Northeast China drought

Chen Mengwei and Mo Jingxi
Updated: Aug 14,2014 11:56 PM     chinadaily.com.cn

Premier Li Keqiang gave important instructions on Aug 12 concerning the ongoing drought relief efforts in areas of China - including the Northeast, which he stressed is an important area for the autumn harvest.

He asked the State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters Office to continue to spare no efforts in local drought relief efforts, and to take all necessary measures to mitigate the impact of the drought and limit economic losses.

Vice-Premier Wang Yang called for a conscientious implementation of the Premier’s instructions. And he said the drought relief measures should be carried out efficiently, so as to ensure the autumn harvest and also the safety of drinking water in the Northeast and other major grain producing areas.

Chen Lei, deputy commander of the State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters and minister of water resources, hosted a meeting at the headquarters on Aug 13 to convey the instructions of the premier and vice-premier. He asked that the situation of the drought should be monitored while arrangements for relief are carried out.

Officials attending the meeting said that the lack of rainfall in some areas of China - including parts of the North, and also concerning the Yellow River and Huaihe River and the area along the middle and upper reaches of the Yangtze River - since the beginning of summer, led to a water shortage, and some provinces are experiencing serious drought.

And, most seriously, the precipitation levels since June decreased by 50 to 70 percent compared to previous years in most areas of Liaoning, western Jilin, eastern Hebei, Henan and northern Hubei.

The precipitation levels in the provinces of Liaoning and Jilin since July were the lowest on record for the same month since 1961. And the river runoff - concerning main rivers in Northern China - was below the average for this time of year.

The Yellow River runoff was 30 to 50 percent below average, the runoff of the upper and middle reaches of the Huaihe River was 60 to 70 percent below average, and the Liaohe River runoff was 50 percent below average.

Reservoir storage in Northern arid regions is below average, with levels in the provinces of Henan, Liaoning and Jilin 10 to 40 percent lower than average.

The situation has affected 74.99 million mu (5 million hectare) of crops, and 2.34 million people and 2.53 million cattle do not have access to safe drinking water in Hebei, Shanxi, Inner Mongolia, Liaoning, Jilin, Shandong, Henan, Hubei, Shaanxi, Gansu, Qinghai, Xinjiang and Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps.

The officials agreed that the drought situation around the country is worsening. Though the conditions in eastern part of the Northwest, eastern part of the Southwest and also the western area of the Yellow River and Huaihe River have improved due to recent rainfall, the western areas of the Northeast are increasingly affected by the drought.

The area of affected crops around China increased by eight million mu since the end of July. A total of 44.26 million mu of crops have been affected in Liaoning, Jilin and Inner Mongolia, accounting for about 60 percent of the country’s drought-hit areas.

Experts predict that there will be less rainfall in late August - compared to the average at this time of year - in various parts of North China, as well as parts of the Yellow River, Yangtze River and Huaihe River, with precipitation as low as 30 percent below average in some areas. The drought is thus likely to worsen and may even continue into autumn.

Chen Lei requested that the instructions of the premier and the vice-premier should be carried out so as to improve drought relief efforts, protect the safety of drinking water for urban and rural residents, and ensure this year’s autumn harvest.

Firstly, Chen urged officials to strengthen drought monitoring and analysis - and specifically asked that they focus on weather, water, moisture, and growth of seedlings, so as to take timely action, with a special emphasis on the western part of the Northeast China.

Secondly, he requested that the authorities should focus on water diversion, taking advantage of post-flood water runoff and typhoon rainfall - so as to increase water sources as part of drought relief measures. Also, they should use important water control projects in Dahuofang, Xinlicheng and Chaersen, as well as emergency water diversion projects in the provinces of Shandong, Henan, Liaoning and Jilin, to ensure water supplies for arid regions.

Thirdly, further measures should be implemented to guarantee the supply of safe drinking water. The authorities should increase efforts to use water wells in areas of the Northeast and other plain areas, and special teams of drought service organizations and volunteers should deliver water - whatever the cost - to secure the basic needs of residents in hilly areas and remote pastoral areas experiencing severe water shortages.

Fourthly, Chen vowed the authorities would take measures to assist the country’s agriculture amid the drought, as the growth and yield of crops - mainly maize, rice, spring wheat and other autumn crops - have been greatly affected.

The authorities will take measures to improve irrigation, as well as technical guidance and field management, to minimize production losses and the impact on the income of farmers.

Fifthly, the role of drought service organizations should be enhanced, and Chen asked teams to carry out emergency water project construction. They should also offer guidance to assist residents to drill wells, look for new water sources and irrigate in a professional manner. Additionally, he called for special efforts to irrigate cultivated land with limited water - such as hills and slopes.

Sixthly, the authorities should increase their guidance and assistance concerning local drought relief efforts - and the State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters has dispatched 16 drought relief working groups. Four additional teams - to Liaoning, Jilin, Inner Mongolia and Gansu - are also expected to assist local authorities fighting drought, and the central government recently allocated 200 million yuan as emergency funds. The Ministry of Finance may also send more funds to support the areas seriously affected, and supplies will be promptly transported to arid areas according to the requirements.

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