Yellow River authority steps up emergency drought measures

08:40, February 17, 2011      

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China's Yellow River catchment authority has launched emergency measures to restrict industrial water usage and to release reservoir water for wheat crops in the face of a worsening drought.

The Yellow River Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters raised on Wednesday its drought alert from yellow to orange, the second-highest level, indicating the area is facing the worst drought in up to half a century.

The headquarters ordered all authorities along the catchment area to initiate an emergency response to ensure water supplies for people and livestock, and to restrict industrial water consumption.

The drought, which has plagued the middle and lower reaches of the Yellow River since October last year, was likely to affect more than 40 percent of crops in the area, said a headquarters spokesman.

Light to moderate snowfall brought some relief to the wheat farmers in the region over the weekend, but not enough to end the drought. Most regions along the Yellow River received precipitation of less than 10 mm.

Thanks to the recent rise in temperatures, ice covering 120-km of the Yellow river has melted, offering more water for irrigation and other water uses.

The headquarters' statistics show that water channeled from the Yellow River reached 228 cubic meters per second at 8 a.m. Tuesday, and supplied the drought-plagued Shandong Province, Tianjin Municipality and Hebei Province.

The headquarters had released more water from reservoirs along the catchment to help with the irrigation of winter wheat crops, said the spokesman.

The Chinese government on Friday announced plans to dig 1,350 wells in eight major wheat-growing provinces to help ease the drought that is threatening grain harvests.

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