Beijing waiting for winter whiteness

Updated: 2011-01-25 07:39

By Wang Qian (China Daily)

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BEIJING - The capital is expected to experience its latest "first snow" since the meteorological bureau began keeping records six decades ago - putting more stress on agriculture in an already dry climate.

Since 1951, the latest Beijing has seen its first snow of the year was in 1984, when it arrived on Jan 29.

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On Monday the website, affiliated to the China Meteorological Administration, foresaw no sign of snowfall in the coming 10 days, which would push the first snow of the year into February.

Weather experts from the meteorological administration also said temperatures are likely to rise in most parts of the country during the coming Spring Festival beginning Feb 3.

Chen Dagang, senior expert at the climate center of the Beijing meteorological bureau, said Beijing's winter climate is characterized by a lack of precipitation, but this year the city has seen effectively no precipitation since Oct 23, with a precipitation volume of merely 7.3 mm.

On Dec 29, the capital saw a mini-snowfall lasting less than 10 minutes with no real precipitation volume recorded, said Qiao Lin, head of the bureau.

More than 90 percent of farmland in the suburbs has been affected, Beijing Times quoted officials from the Beijing agriculture bureau on Monday. If the dry weather continues until March, wheat is likely to wither.

Although the dry weather isn't having a big influence on water supplies, the water level is still lower than usual, the Beijing water authority said.

Water shortages have been a headache for the capital since 1999, when Beijing and nearby areas experienced a severe drought.

Statistics from the capital's water authority said Beijing's underground water level has dropped 10.9 meters since 1999.

To solve the water shortage, municipal authorities will launch a project to transfer water from the Yellow River to Beijing with an estimated annual volume of 300 million cubic meters of water, Beijing Times reported on Monday.

Before 2014, Beijing is expected to import 400 to 600 million cubic meters of water from other regions to guarantee water supply, it reported.

Cheng Jing, head of the Beijing water authority, told Beijing Times on Sunday the capital will launch a strict water protection and management system.

The 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015) proposes that by 2015 the number of water-recycling factories in downtown Beijing will be increased to 24 and recycled water in the capital will reach 1 billion cubic meters, helping alleviate its water scarcity.

Cheng said a monitoring mechanism will be set up, targeting major water-consuming organizations that use more than 1,000 cubic meters every year.

Beijing's drought is a result of unusually dry weather across northern and eastern China that may put further pressure on surging food prices.

Beijing waiting for winter whiteness

The unusually dry conditions have spread across much of China's northern and eastern breadbasket, including the provinces of Shandong, Henan, Shanxi, Hebei, Jiangsu and Anhui.

The key wheat-growing province of Shandong is facing its worst drought in at least 60 years.

Drought has hit more than half of the land in the province, which normally plants wheat on about 2 million hectares, according to a notice posted on Monday on the provincial water bureau's website.

Many areas have seen no precipitation in four months, and 353,000 hectares of spring wheat have already withered or are beginning to fail, it said. More than 240,000 people and 107,000 head of livestock have already lost local access to drinking water and are forced to rely on deliveries from fire trucks.

Still, provincial agriculture officials were far from giving up on the crop. They're hanging their hopes on artificial irrigation in the spring, according to Xie Hongqi, an official quoted by the Xinhua News Agency.


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