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Over 1 million lives affected as drought persists in east China

(Xinhua)

08:23, January 12, 2012

NANCHANG, Jan. 11 (Xinhua) -- A lingering drought has caused a severe water shortage in east China's Jiangxi Province, affecting the lives of over one million people, local authorities said Wednesday.

The drought has sharply reduced water levels in Poyang Lake, the country's largest freshwater lake, and rivers in Jiangxi, threatening water supplies to more than one million people residing near the lake and rivers, said an official with the province's flood control and drought relief headquarters.

The water-surface area of Poyang Lake shrank to less than 200 square km this month, or 5 percent of its full size, revealing much of its underwater terrain and stranding fishing boats.

In Gongqingcheng, a city by the lake, authorities had to borrow water from a nearby county as the city's sole water supplier, the Changqing Reservoir, is drying up.

Meager rainfall was the main reason for the drought. The province's rainfall in 2011 was 20 percent less than the amount that fell on average annually. Precipitation was especially scarce in the past two months, extending the drought season in the region.

Ganjiang River, which flows into Poyang Lake and is the biggest river in Jiangxi, has seen water levels in its middle and lower reaches drop to a record low.

In addition to the lack of rainfall, excessive sand dredging was also to blame for the situation as water levels have dropped with the riverbed, making it harder to pump out groundwater, said an expert with the province's water resources department.

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