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Published April 09, 2010, 09:56 AM

Water shortage worsens in SW China

BEIJING — More people are having trouble getting drinking water in southwestern China as the area’s worst drought in a century shows no signs of ending despite a brief spell of rain, authorities said Friday.

BEIJING — More people are having trouble getting drinking water in southwestern China as the area’s worst drought in a century shows no signs of ending despite a brief spell of rain, authorities said Friday.

About 20 million people and millions of livestock do not have access to water, and despite rainfall in the past week the hardest-hit regions of Yunnan, Guizhou, Guangxi and Sichuan provinces still cannot provide adequate drinking water, especially to people living in mountainous areas, a statement on the Web site of the State Flood Control and Drought Relief said.

“The new rain has not created an effective runoff of water. Therefore we are facing an increasing shortage of drinking water ... the drought situation remains grim,” the statement said.

Local governments are trying to tap underground water sources, seed clouds to try to produce rain in key areas for agricultural production and transport bottled water and trucks filled with clean water.

“As with severe droughts like this one, the situation will always get worse before it gets better,” a director at the Yunnan Land Resources Bureau said Friday.

“We don’t anticipate any changes in the severity of this drought until the rainy season in mid-May,” said the man who would give only his surname, Ma.

The mountainous region of Yunnan province has received little rainfall since fall 2009, causing economic losses of 10 billion yuan ($1.46 billion), Xinhua reported.

Nearly 10 milllion people in Yunnan have been affected by the drought, Ma said.

The drought has sparked fears of food shortages and inflation as major crops such as sugar and wheat have withered, the China Daily newspaper reported.

In the southwestern Guangxi region, where sugar cane crops have perished and white sugar production is expected to decline this year, 67 producers have been forced to shut down, nearly double the number during the same period last year, the official Xinhua New Agency said.

To curb inflation, the central government has ordered the transfer of 1.7 million tons of grain reserves to the region, the China Daily reported.

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