Tue, February 17, 2009
China > Mainland > Severe drought hits N China

Drought situation continues to improve

2009-02-17 01:52:58 GMT2009-02-17 09:52:58 (Beijing Time)  China Daily

The area of farmland affected by severe drought in North China has fallen by more than a third from its peak on Feb 7 to just under 100 million mu (6.6 million hectares) yesterday, the Office of State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters said.

The figure fell by 4.71 million mu yesterday, as authorities continue to go all out to fight the country's worst drought for decades, it said.

Of the affected area, 29 million mu is "seriously threatened" and 4.2 million mu has dried out, it said.

More than 4.6 million people and 2.5 million heads of livestock are still facing water shortages, it said.

More than 83 million mu of winter wheat crops in the provinces of Hebei, Shanxi, Jiangsu, Anhui, Henan, Shandong, Shaanxi, and Gansu are still being hit by the drought, 4.7 million mu less than a day earlier, and more than half the total area affected on Feb 7, it said.

Almost 30 million people - more than 200,000 of them agriculture experts and technicians sent to assist farmers - are engaged in drought relief, the Ministry of Agriculture said in a recent press release.

Henan, the hardest-hit province and the country's breadbasket, has sent 20,000 soldiers and armed police, and 910,000 local militia to help with the relief work.

However, agricultural expert Wu Xue said that to secure the summer harvest, the urgent task is "to fertilize the crops and water the land. Then the crops can grow healthily".

More must also be done in the long run, Zhou Li, an agriculture professor with Renmin University, said.

"The ongoing drought conditions means farmers have to work much harder. But this is against their economic interests compared with the option of becoming migrant workers in cities," he said.

"Effective agricultural infrastructure can't be built by women, seniors and children, who are just about the only people left in the villages as most of the adult labor is away.

"Even those who are temporarily staying in their rural homes because of the financial crisis have for the most part lost their capacity or willingness to do farm work," Zhou said.

"We must be cautious in the face of this severe drought. Only then can we start implementing positive and appropriate measures," he said.

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