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Drought Leaves 78,000 People Short of Drinking Water in C China

Authorities in central China are considering closing polluting factories and opening a large reservoir to ease a drought that has left 78,000 rural people short of drinking water.

An emergency plan to handle the water shortage was being drawn up, the Hunan Provincial Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters said on Tuesday.

Hunan's main Xiangjiang River saw levels at 26 meters at 8:00 AM on Tuesday in the provincial capital, Changsha. The level was 2.64 meters lower than the average for the time of year.

Key industries would be temporarily closed to reduce pollution in the river, the headquarters said. Preparations were also being made to divert water from the Dongjiang reservoir upstream.

The low level -- only 50 to 60 cm higher than the minimum necessary for intake pipes -- threatened water supplies for Xiangtan and Zhuzhou cities, according to state-owned urban water supply companies.

The drought has also affected 33,000 hectares of cropland in the province. Many rural people were traveling to water as wells dried up.

Lower than average rainfalls in summer and autumn had resulted in the flow volumes of rivers in Hunan falling by 16 to 37 percent compared with normal years, the provincial hydrological resource bureau said.

(Xinhua News Agency October 22, 2008)

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