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Drought Decimates Crops in southwestern China

Crops hit as drought worsens in south-west China

Earth Times, March 18, 2010

Beijing - The worst drought in 60 years is expected to cut crop yields by more than half in much of south-western China, bringing more misery to some of the nation's poorest villages, state media said on Thursday. Dry weather since August has left at least 25 million people short of drinking water in the two worst-hit provinces of Yunnan and Guizhou, with four other south-western provinces also badly affected.

Grain output is forecast to fall by more than 50 per cent in Yunnan after the drought affected some 2 million hectares, or 86 per cent, of the province's farmland, the China Daily newspaper reported.

"The average precipitation is down by 60 per cent and the drought will persist until mid-May," the newspaper quoted Zhu Yong, head of the provincial meteorological centre, as saying.

Total direct economic losses are estimated at more than 13 billion yuan (2 billion dollars) in Yunnan, with harvests of fruit, tea, rubber, coffee, sugarcane and other crops all dropping heavily.

The fall in production of ornamental flowers in Yunnan, which normally produces 80 per cent of China's total, has caused a doubling of fresh flower prices in urban areas, the newspaper said.

Some eight million people in Yunnan lack drinking water, while another 17 million are short of drinking water in the neighbouring Guizhou province.

Villagers in parts of Guizhou are making do with government rations of two buckets of drinking water every four days, earlier reports said.

Nearly every city and county in Guizhou has recorded its worst drought for 80 years, the provincial flood prevention and drought relief office said.

Winter temperatures averaging about 2 degrees Celsius higher than normal have worsened the drought, causing 331 forest fires in Guizhou since February 1, the office said.

The water flow in the upper Mekong - known as the Lancang in China - fell to about 250 cubic metres per second in Yunnan at the end of last month, half of an average February flow.

Cloud-seeding operations in some areas since late February have done little to ease the water shortage, which is also affecting parts of Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand.

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