Friday, December 14, 2007

Climate change blamed as drought hits 100,000 at China's largest freshwater lake

Xinhua: More than 100,000 residents are suffering drinking water shortages around the Poyang Lake, China's largest freshwater lake, as drought strikes - and an expert has warned that the condition may blight the area for a further 10 winters, a direct result of climate change. "The lake now covers less than 50 square kilometers, down from about 3,000 square kilometers in summer this year. The water surface was 300 to 500 square kilometers last winter," said Tan Guoliang, director of the Hydrological Bureau in east China's Jiangxi Province.

"My house used to be by the side of the lake. Now I have to go over a dozen kilometers away to get to the lake water. We have been used to the seasonal variations of the lake, but we have never been badly short of drinking water supply before," said Yu Wenchang, a villager living in the northeastern part of the lake. Some 1,000 villagers in Yu's village of Xiayangzui in Changdu County of Jiangxi now live on water from four wells.

"A total of 52 of the 56 wells in the village have dried up, as the lake water retreats. Only four have water. Senior citizens told us that they had never seen the lake reduced so drastically in winter," Yu said. Villagers have channeled water from a nearby pond to the dry wells, and they are preparing to dig deeper for water.

Many villagers have abandoned the use of boats since they can walk across the marsh of the exposed lake bed. Jiang Tong, an expert with the Nanjing Institute of Geography and Limnology under the Chinese Academy of Sciences said that the Poyang Lake's winter drought is likely to continue for the next 10years. "Both the stream flows into the river and the Yangtze River water to replenish the lake will be insufficient in dry seasons in the future, because of climate change and the exploitation of water resources," said Jiang, who is a specialist in seasonal water responses to climate and land changes in Poyang Lake Basin.

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