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Edit Title:[HugChina] Severe drought persists in central and eastern China
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BEIJING, May 29 -- China's National Meteorological Center on Sunday kept its 'yellow alert' for the persistent drought that is plaguing many central and eastern provinces of China

BEIJING, May 29 -- China's National Meteorological Center on Sunday kept its "yellow alert" for the persistent drought that is plaguing many central and eastern provinces of China.

The observatory said there will be still no effective precipitation in the coming days in provinces and municipalities along the lower and middle reaches of the Yangtze River and dry weather will continue to develop in spite of scattered drizzle.

China's meteorological disaster alerts are categorized as blue, yellow, orange and red as the severity of disasters ascends.

The Xinhua reports that provinces including Hubei, Jiangxi, Anhui, Jiangsu and Zhejiang have experienced abnormally low rainfall levels this year, with the area surrounding the Yangtze river basin receiving 40 to 60 percent less rain than average levels over the past 50 years.

The overall effect of the drought is extremely severe, with impacts on drinking supplies, fishing, rice harvests, and commercial trade as well, with shipping carriers across a stretch of the Yangtze halted since May 11th. There are also expected power shortages due to hydroelectric operations coming to a standstill in several sections of the Yangtze.

China's two largest fresh water lakes - Dongting Lake (洞庭湖) in Hunan and Poyang Lake (鄱阳湖) in Jiangxi - are both drying up dramatically. The surface area for Lake Poyang has now been reduced to one-tenth of its former size, with water levels declining by 5 meters. And 1400 small lakes in Hubei province have been declared 'dead' by authorities.

Professor Guo Qinghan of the Hubei Academy of Social Sciences says that, due to land reclamation and soil erosion, some lakes are as shallow as 'dinner plates'.

And even dolphins are catching hell.

Chinese government have ordered the Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River to discharge more water in an attempt to combat the drought in downstream provinces.

From May 25 to June 10, the water discharge rate was increased from the normal 10,000 cubic meters a second to between 11,000 and 12,000 cubic meters a second.

Though the increased volume of water discharged had helped irrigate 575,000 hectares of farmland by Saturday, a senior manager of the China Three Gorges Corporation said that if there is no rainfall before June 10, the dam will lose the capacity to relieve the drought.

On May 20, a statement from State Council acknowledged the dam's negative effect on downstream water supplies. However, the assertion that the Three Gorges Dam should be blamed for the drought has already been vehimently denied elsewhere. Hubei Provincial Weather Bureau meteorologist Liu Min declared the drought was a 'periodical phenomenon', rather than the result of 'improper water conservation'.

View the China pictures as a slide show

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Bernd Chang
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Since early January, precipitation in Jiangsu, Anhui, Jiangxi, Hubei and Hunan provinces has been about 40 percent to 60 percent less than the same period last year, causing a severe drought in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River, areas surounding the two largest fresh water lakes of China, Poyang Lake and Dongting Lake, as well as areas in eastern China between Huai River and Yangtze River.

5200099-china-drought-01-800x473.jpg



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Persistent shortage of rainfall has resulted in dramatically lowering of water level in Chaohu Lake (巢湖) in Anhui Province. On May 21,2011, there has been no water under the wooden bridge to center of the Chaohu Lake.

5200099-china-drought-02-800x532.jpg



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The fishing boats stood on the dried bed of Dongting Lake in Yueyang City of Hunan Province, May 11,2011. Due to persistent drought in areas surounding Dongting Lake, the water level at Chengji of Dongting Lake has lowered to 21.74 meters, the lowest level in history.

5200099-china-drought-03-600x800.jpg



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The bed of Dongting Lake under the Yueyang Dongting Bridge is dried up on May 11,2011. Dongting Lake has recorded new lowest water level.

5200099-china-drought-04-627x800.jpg



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Water level in Hanjiang River has broken new lowest record. Large part of the riverbed of Hanjiang has appreared out of water in Shiyan City, Hubei Province. It is not suitable for the boats to ship any more. By May 15, the water level in Yin County of Shiyan has dropped to 136.78 meters, lower than the average history level, and the water is still dropping.

5200099-china-drought-05-800x523.jpg



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A dead tortoise lies on the cracked riverbed of Hanjiang River, a major tributary of Yangtze River, in Wuhan, Central China's Hubei province, May 19, 2011. Hanjiang, one of the Yangtze River branches, is being dried up due to a lasting drought.

5200099-china-drought-06-800x539.jpg



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Plagued by a severe drought which is spreading throughout Chinas southern regions, Honghu Lake, located in Hubei Province in central China, has dwindled by a third in water surface and dropped down to less than 40 centimeters in its deepest place in history. (2011-05-24)

5200099-china-drought-07-800x532.jpg



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Ships stranded due to low water levels are seen near the Zaozhuang section in east China's Shandong province, along the famous Beijing – Hangzhou Grand Canal on May 22, 2011. About 1,300 boats were stranded in the section as of 1 pm on Sunday.

5200099-china-drought-08-800x533.jpg



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63 years old villager Feng Guoxiang stood on the dried up rice field on May 12, 2011 in Macheng City, Hubei Province. Hubei, nick named in China as Province with Thousand Lakes, is experienced a severe from-winter-to-spring persistent drought, which has resulted in drying up of thousand lakes, small rivers and reserviors.

5200099-china-drought-09-800x531.jpg



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Fishing boats are stranded on grassland, which was once the bed of Poyang Lake — China’s largest fresh water lake, in Jiujiang, East China’s Jiangxi province, on Saturday. Because of a severe drought, the area of Poyang Lake has shrunken to less than half its usual size.

5200099-china-drought-10-800x533.jpg



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Bernd Chang
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The upper picture taken on May 28,2011 shows a photographer walked on the grassland in Jiujiang City of Jiangxi Province, which was originally the bed of Poyang Lake. The below picture taken on July 27, 2010 shows the same place was full of water.

5200099-china-drought-11-434x600.jpg



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A tributary of Liangzi Lake in Wuhan has dried up and seems like a small ditch, Wuhan, Hubei Province, May 21,2011. A villager nearby said that he never saw this lake had dried up to such an extent in dozens of years.

5200099-china-drought-12-550x355.jpg



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