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Spring Farming Threatened by Continuing Drought

A number of regions in the north and northeast part of the country continue to face drought that could affect spring farming.

Serious drought struck many large cities and prefectures of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in the north, including Hulun Buir, Baotou, Ordos and Xilingol, early this month because of reduced rainfall since December, the autonomous regional meteorological bureau said on Thursday.

Different localities received a maximum of 20 mm of rainfall over the past four months, up to 70 percent less than the same period of previous years, Li Yunpeng, an official with the meteorological center of ecology and agriculture, said.

The drought would continue in the region until the first spring rain arrives in mid-April, Li said.

Meteorological authorities called for measures to maintain soil moisture for the upcoming spring sowing.

A severe drought in neighboring Hebei Province had affected 3 million hectares of cropland and left residents in some areas short of drinking water.

It is the 12th consecutive spring drought in the province, which received only 7 mm of rainfall on average since winter, about 60 percent less than normal years.

The drought had lowered aquifer levels by 1 to 2 m and left 50,000 wells useless.

In Heilongjiang Province, nearly 5.8 million hectares of cropland, about half of the total farming acreage, were in dire need of irrigation, official statistics showed.

Many middle and large reservoirs had also reported insufficient water supplies, and both underground and river water levels were dropping.

Zhaoyuan County had managed to store 60 million cu m of water by collecting ice in the freezing Songhua River, in response to the government's call to explore water resources to ensure agricultural harvests.

In neighboring Liaoning Province, the drought was temporarily alleviated by rainfall last Wednesday and the thawing of soil with spring. However, the western part of the province was still suffering from dry soil measuring as thick as 7 cm, officials said.

Local meteorological authorities called for artificial rainmaking to increase soil moisture.

Other provinces including Jilin and Shandong were also reportedly rolling out measures to prevent the spread of the drought, by preparing cloud seeding, digging wells and building other water facilities to increase supply.

(Xinhua News Agency March 21, 2008)

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