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Drought Hits Millions In Southwestern China As Polluted Lake Forces Factory Shutdown

Photo courtesy AFP.
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Jun 05, 2007
A severe drought has left four million people short of drinking water in southwest China, state media reported Tuesday, as the vast country battles a crippling water shortage. Some 4.46 million head of livestock were also affected by the drought in Sichuan, where parts of the province have not seen any rain for up to 40 days, Xinhua news agency reported, citing the province's meteorological bureau.

Around 110,000 people are depending on deliveries of water by truck, according to the provincial water resources department.

The drought has also prevented large areas of farmland from being seeded because of a lack of moisture and many of the crops that have been planted have shrivelled, the report added.

Last month, more than 4.8 million people in northern Gansu province faced similar shortages following the worst drought there since the 1940s, Xinhua said, citing state drought relief authorities.

China last year suffered a range of extreme weather events, including exceptionally strong typhoons, floods and droughts, which local meteorological officials have partly attributed to the effects of climate change.

earlier related report
China shuts down plants on polluted lake
Beijing (AFP) Jun 5 - Authorities have ordered heavily polluting industries around China's third largest freshwater lake to close after drinking water for millions of people was contaminated, a top official said Tuesday. More than two million people in Wuxi city in the eastern province of Jiangsu were left without clean tap water to drink or wash in last week due to an algae bloom choking Taihu lake, once renowned for its scenic beauty.

"We are strengthening our supervision and inspecting every enterprise that is discharging nitrogen and phosphorus," vice environment minister Zhang Lijun told journalists.

"Those that are exceeding limits will be shut down and those that are within the standards will be further restricted to what Taihu lake is capable of withstanding."

All enterprises in the area that discharge phosphorus and nitrogen -- chemicals widely used in fertilisers and soap powders that were the main causes of the algae bloom -- would also have to re-register for discharge permits, he added.

The filthy water became apparent last month, when low levels in the lake and an accumulation of industrial waste and untreated raw sewage sparked the putrid algae growth.

Extra water from China's longest river, the Yangtze, was being diverted into the lake to dilute the pollution, while boats have already removed up to 6,000 tons of algae, according to Zhang.

According to Wuxi vice mayor Liu Hongzhi, 502 factories in the area will need to be relicensed to discharge waste, while monitoring will be stepped up on 22 key polluting industries, Xinhua news agency said.

In the city of Changzhou, which has two rivers leading into Taihu lake, 82 printing and dyeing, pharmaceutical and chemical plants have also been ordered to halt the discharge of industrial waste, the report said.

Meanwhile Zhang voiced support for jailed environmental campaigner Wu Yilong, who was arrested last month after a long campaign aimed at getting the local government to close down those companies polluting Taihu lake.

Zhang acknowledged that Wu had been arrested but refused to comment on the bribery charges lodged by the government of Yixing city, on the other side of the lake from Wuxi, that landed him in jail.

he also refused to comment on claims by Wu's wife that the activist had been tortured by police while in custody.

"As far as those people who are concerned about protecting the environment, in the past these people have been viewed as family to the environmental protection administration, they are our allies," Zhang said.

"There is no way that we would treat these people as enemies."

Source: Agence France-Presse

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EU And Japan Agree To Join Forces In Combating Climate Change
Berlin (AFP) Jun 05, 2007
The European Union and Japan agreed on Tuesday to take the lead in forging a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, jointly proposing to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who holds the bloc's rotating presidency, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reached the accord during their meeting in Berlin on the eve of the Group of Eight summit.

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