Drought rings ecological protection alarm bells

22:13, April 12, 2010      

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On a paddy field by the Myanmar border in Tengchong County, about a dozen white herons catch worms as farmers work their ploughs under a blue sky and the gaze of green mountains.

"You can only see this kind of bird in the fields if the local ecology and environment is very good," said Zhou Guokuai, vice director of the press office of Tengchong in southwest China's Yunnan Province.

A drought has ravaged Yunnan since last autumn, leaving 8.89 million facing drinking water shortages in Yunnan alone. Some 98,600 of them, along with 13,150 head of livestock, are in Tengchong County.

"Still, the drought's effect has been less here than in other regions because we have thick forest coverage here in Tengchong. That forest coverage helps preserve the water," said Zhou Guokuai.

About 71 percent of the county's land, 5,845 square kilometers in size, is covered by forest, said Fan Renjie, the chief of Tengchong's forestry bureau, while the national forest coverage ratio is 20.36 percent. In the Dahe Forest Farm, the crisp sound of water bubbling down a ravine stream is pleasing to the ears.

"The water never dries up at any time. The drought has had a limited impact on the water flow," said Gong Chengchao, the Communist Party branch secretary of the state-owned forest farm.

Fan Renji told Xinhua reporters at the scene the water is clean and directly drinkable with a scoop of the hands.

The water in the stream joins with several others and flows down the valleys and converges into a medium-sized reservoir in the lower reaches.

"The water stored so far is 31.5 million cubic meters. It's just a little less than that in normal years. Total capacity of the reservoir is 35 million cubic meters," said Fan Renjie.

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