Drought has spread in south China's Guangdong Province to 84 cities and counties, affecting more than 2 million residents there.
The disaster could even worsen in the coming months, with local meteorological forecasters saying there will continue to be little rainfall until the arrival of spring.
Ou Guangyuan, deputy secretary of the Guangdong Provincial Committee of the Communist Party of China, has urged government departments and officials in the province to do what they can to ensure drinking water supplies to local people and domestic animals.
"Anti-drought efforts have become an important and long-term task in Guangdong Province," Ou said.
He visited the Guangdong Provincial Anti-Drought Headquarters over the weekend and urged water conservation departments to try to introduce effective measures to fight the disaster and reduce economic losses to the minimum.
Guangdong is now experiencing its most serious drought disaster in the past five decades, said Ou.
The water levels of the Xijiang, Beijiang, Dongjiang and Hanjiang rivers, the four major tributaries of the Pearl River, have reached their lowest points in 50 years.
The average flows of the Pearl River's tributaries have witnessed a reduction of 50 percent from corresponding months of last year.
By the end of October, more than 689,000 hectares of farmland have been seriously affected. Of drought-hit farmland, 41,000 hectares have seen no harvests at all.
And the economic losses from agriculture alone have come to more than 1.4 billion yuan (US$170 million) this year.
And 32 cities and counties in the province have been struck by the drought. More than 1.7 million people and more than 769,000 domestic animals have insufficient water supplies.
By the end of last month, the water reserves in the province's large- and middle-sized reservoirs were only 5.23 billion cubic meters, down 684 million cubic meters from the same period of last year. That was a reduction of 517 million cubic meters from the figure recorded at the end of September.
A total of 867 small- and middle-sized reservoirs have dried out.
In addition to rural areas in the province's western, eastern and northern parts, the drought has also spread to the prosperous cities of Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Dongguan, Foshan and Jiangmen in the Pearl River Delta.
In Guangzhou, more than 13,000 hectares of rice fields and many other fruit-growing areas have been affected by the drought. The orange output of the Guangdong provincial capital will see a reduction of more than 40 percent this year because of the serious drought.
Guangzhou has shut down more than 600 small- and medium-sized hydraulic power stations to ensure agricultural irrigation.
The drought will also affect the harvest of lychee, longan and other fruits in the southern Chinese region in the coming year.
The Guangzhou municipal government has invested more than 10 million yuan (US$1.2 million) to fight the drought this year.
To help combat the drought situation, the Guangdong provincial government has planned to create more artificial rainfall later this year, according to an official from the Guangdong Provincial Bureau of Water Conservation.
And he has also urged water conservation departments in the whole province to try to protect water resources, save water and put available water to rational use.
(China Daily November 8, 2004)