Monday, February 9, 2009

Article - China fights drought


BEIJING - CHINA fired thousands of artillery shells into the sky to make it rain and prepared to divert water from its two longest rivers to fight the country's worst drought in decades, officials said yesterday.

The drought, which has hit most of the north since November, is also affecting central and southwestern rice-growing provinces. Weather-control officials launched 2,392 shells and 409 rockets packed with cloud-seeding chemicals in operations across the north of China last Saturday, the China Meteorological Administration said. It brought down up to 5mm of rain in northern Hebei province, the official Xinhua news agency said.

Officials announced plans to divert water from the Yangtze River, the country's longest, to areas of eastern Jiangsu Province, Xinhua reported, citing a senior Ministry of Water Resources emergency official. Floodgates will also be opened in Inner Mongolia along the Yellow River to increase water supply for central Henan and eastern Shandong provinces.

Beijing last week raised its drought emergency to the highest level for the first time and sent relief supplies and technical specialists to eight major drought-hit regions. The Ministry of Finance allocated 86.7 billion yuan (S$19 billion) as relief funds for drought-stricken regions last Friday. That will add to the strain on government finances as it carries out a multibillion-dollar stimulus package to boost slowing economic growth.

Premier Wen Jiabao inspected drought relief work in Henan over the weekend and said ensuring a good harvest was critical to the success of the stimulus, the Xinhua News Agency and state television reported.

Wen visited a village where soldiers and police were helping farmers irrigate crops with water from a tank truck. The premier was shown using a hose to water a field and talking to farmers.

"This is an extremely big drought. It is a test of our party committees, government and leaders at all levels," Xinhua quoted Wen as telling local leaders.

Rural hardship is politically sensitive at a time when 20 million migrants have returned home after losing jobs because of the economic slump. The communist government is trying to curb the potential for unrest by pressing companies to avoid more layoffs.

Questions to consider
  1. To what extent is the current drought in China a threat to Chinese governance?
  2. How well has the CCP responded so far?
Related websites: Drought troubles 4.8 mln Chongqing people , Chinese president calls for more efforts on sand control, poverty alleviation

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