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China's largest freshwater lake threatened by exploitation amid severe drought

(Xinhua)

09:47, January 05, 2012

NANCHANG, Jan. 4 (Xinhua) -- The surface area of Poyang Lake, China's largest freshwater lake, has shrunk to less 200 square km, the Jiangxi provincial hydrographic bureau said Wednesday.

Poyang Lake, located in eastern Jiangxi province, is fed by five rivers in the province and empties into the nation's longest river, the Yangtze.

Persistent droughts caused by lack of rainfall in the upper reaches of the rivers have been blamed for the lake's shrinkage, said Tan Guoliang, head of the provincial hydrographic bureau.

Water levels on the middle and lower reaches of the Ganjiang River, one of five rivers that discharge into the lake, have reached a record low of 12.35 meters, 0.47 meters lower than the previous record low, according to the bureau.

Cities along the Ganjiang River are even preparing to tackle a possible water shortage, according to the bureau.

Human activity is also partially to blame for the shrinking lake. Multiple construction projects have sprung up around the lake, including an international resort and commercial buildings. Provincial authorities said local governments have approved more construction in recent years, with the situation becoming more serious as time goes by.

"Jiangxi saw a rare and severe drought in 2011, causing water levels to continue to decline. The environment of this area has been heavily affected," said Dai Nianhua, deputy director of the Poyang Lake Research Center under the Jiangxi Academy of Sciences.

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