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UPDATED: March 26, 2010 NO. 13 APRIL 1, 2010
A Scorching Lesson

A severe drought is ravaging southwest China, drying up vast farmland and leaving people in desperate need of drinking water.

Since last October, Yunnan, Sichuan and Guizhou provinces, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region and Chongqing Municipality have been plagued by a rainfall shortage and depleted water stores, leading to the worst drought in the region in decades or even in a century.

So far, the drought has affected more than 50 million people and 6 million hectares of farmland, with 18 million people and 10 million livestock lacking drinkable water. A total of 19 billion yuan ($2.8 billion) in direct economic losses has already been incurred.

The local governments have taken all kinds of emergency relief measures. As of March 25, the ministries of finance, agriculture, civil affairs and water resources have appropriated more than 370 million yuan ($54.4 million) for the drought-hit regions; east coastal provinces like Guangdong and Zhejiang have lent their helping hands, sending bottled drinking water via special nonstop trains to the drought areas; the Red Cross Society of China has received donations of more than 1 million yuan ($146,400).

While taking relief measures to combat the drought, the country has realized the urgency of improving its abilities of coping with climate change.

Climate change is projected to increase the intensity and frequency of extreme weather, posing challenges to the country's vulnerable agriculture. The unexpected drought in the normally rainy southwestern region is a warning for the country. China should first become more aware of potential disasters caused by extreme weather.

Meanwhile, the government urgently needs to improve its medium- and long-term agriculture disaster relief abilities, including establishing a disaster prevention and relief system, strengthening research on the causes of agricultural disasters and disaster relief technology, speeding up water conservancy project construction, and training personnel on relief technology development, relief management and disaster insurance, among other efforts.

As a famous saying goes: "In fair weather prepare for foul." Facing a cantankerous climate, it's never too late for the country to take preventative measures and prepare for future relief.

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