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El Nino hurting drought-struck Philippine farms

by Staff Writers
Manila (AFP) Feb 18, 2010
The Philippines said Thursday that its farming industry could lose about 433 million dollars this year due a drought caused by the El Nino atmospheric phenomenon.

The damage estimates range from eight to 20 billion pesos (173 to 433 million dollars), depending on whether El Nino will cause a prolonged dry spell or a short one, said agricultural undersecretary Joel Rudinas.

Local governments have already reported that as much as a billion pesos in rice and about 1.4 billion pesos in corn may have been lost due to the drought that is scorching farms across the Southeast Asian archipelago, he said.

"We are still evaluating if the crops cannot be saved or if the yield will just be lower," he told AFP.

El Nino is an occasional seasonal warming of the central and eastern Pacific Ocean that upsets normal weather patterns from the western seaboard of Latin America to east Africa, and has caused droughts in the Philippines before.

The government is trying to alleviate the effects of the drought by helping farmers switch to crops that are less dependent on water than rice, such as vegetables and fruits.

It is also providing 6,000 water pumps to help farmers draw on more distant sources of water such as rivers, lakes or even underground water, Rudinas said.

The department is carrying out other schemes such as trying to re-use water in the drainage systems, inter-connecting irrigation systems and controlling the release of water from hydroelectric plants, he added.

President Gloria Arroyo on Thursday also issued various orders aimed at ensuring Filipinos conserve water, including the creation of "water marshals" to ensure government agencies cut down on wastage.

She also ordered a reduction in the amount of water to be released by Angat, the country's main dam on Luzon island, a crackdown on pilferage from pipes and a campaign to inform people about the importance of saving water.

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Drought in SW Australia linked to snowfall in Antarctica
Paris (AFP) Feb 7, 2010
A drought that has gripped the southwestern corner of Australia since the 1970s is linked with higher snowfall in East Antarctica, a phenomenon that may be rooted in global warming, scientists reported on Sunday. Researchers Tas van Ommen and Vin Morgan of the Australian Antarctic Division said that the drought - which has seen winter rainfall decline by 15-20 percent - is extremely unusua ... read more

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