3-month northern drought forecast to last

08:10, February 01, 2011      

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A three-month drought across most parts of northern China, the country's main wheat-growing region, is likely to continue during the Spring Festival, forecasters warn.

China Meteorological Administration spokesman Chen Zhenlin, said on Monday that no rain or snow is expected in most northern areas in the coming week and mild snow, in parts, is forecast only after Feb 7.

Most parts of China will experience temperatures during the Spring Festival, which falls on Feb 3, up to 2 C higher than the average over the past two decades, Chen told a news conference.

Consequently, the predicted lack of precipitation will worsen the severe drought in most parts of northern China, Chen said.

The meteorological administration asked local weather bureaus to monitor the situation and take advantage of any conditions appropriate for cloud seeding, he said.

Since October, meteorological bureaus in Hebei, Shanxi, Shandong, Anhui and Jiangsu provinces carried out 359 cloud-seeding operations to enhance rainfall and they played an active role in drought relief, Chen told the news conference.

Beijing is experiencing its latest "first snow" since the meteorological bureau began keeping records six decades ago and Shandong, a major wheat-growing province, is facing its worst drought in a century.

Data monitored by the National Climate Center on Saturday showed severe drought in southern parts of Shandong, northern parts of Anhui and northeastern parts of Henan.

Crop-growing areas hit by drought have increased to 5.16 million hectares, with about 60 percent of these areas in Shandong and Henan, Minister of Water Resources Chen Lei said on Sunday.

Chen said 2.57 million people were faced with a shortage of drinking water in the drought-hit areas.

Shandong's provincial flood control and drought relief headquarters said on its website that the number of people facing water shortages, if there is no rain, could rise to 320,000 and nearly 4 million hectares of farmland have been hit.

Since Sept 23, the average volume of precipitation reached only 12 mm and the drought is worsening, the headquarters said.

Provincial authorities in Shandong raised the drought disaster alert to its highest level on Thursday.

In North China's Hebei province, 370,000 residents are having difficulty in getting drinking water while at least another 9 million have been affected since November, according to the provincial civil affairs department.

Only 2 mm of rain has fallen in the province since November, 80 percent less than normal.

The lack of rain has hit the wheat-growing belt across six provinces from Shandong on the coast to Henan in the center of the country, an area that contributes 20 percent of the country's total output of winter wheat.

But Guo Tiancai, deputy chief of the Agriculture Ministry's wheat experts group, said on the ministry's website that the dry weather had not hurt the winter crop so far, as early irrigation was providing enough moisture for the soil.

China allocated 2.2 billion yuan ($338 million) for farm irrigation and drought-relief equipment and supplies on Thursday and on Sunday the country decided to invest another 4 trillion yuan into projects during the next decade to improve water conservation.

By Wang Qian, China Daily
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