By Yang Xingyun
Published: 2007-12-26

From Nation, Page 9, December 24, 2007
Translated by Liu Peng
Original article:

Stricken by drought, abuse by industry, and neglect by local government, the once-majestic Xiang River in Hunan province has been reduced to a shadow of its former self. Since November, its water level has dropped to a record low.

Now, some sections of the river in Changsha, Hunan's capital, are nothing more than scattered, turbid puddles. And underneath one Changsha bridge, exposed pillars caked with silt stand awkwardly on a baked riverbed, while a muddy stream oozes lifelessly beneath.

"I've never seen so little water," says Liu Hongsheng, a retiree who has worked in shipping on the river for 40 years since he was 16.  

Once a busy shipping channel, the river is now little more than spot for leisure fisherman. Its waterline has receded so much that some stretches between Zhuzhou and Changsha measure below one meter deep. Sources from the Hunan provincial transport department told the EO: "Xiang River has basically lost its value for transportation."

As a result, the once-hectic pier at Zhuzhou has halted its operations for three months, causing over-congestion in railway and truck transportation. Zhuzhou Port Company, a state-owned enterprise that at one point comprised of over 1,000 staff, has been forced into bankruptcy and has obtained approval to wind down its business by December 31. 

Natural Calamity
The Xiang River crisis is partly caused by severe drought since the middle of this year. The River basin received its first rain in four months on December 18th, which lead to a 12cm rise in water level in the Changsha section. However, meteorologists predict that rainfall will remain scant until January. The situation will only improve in February, they say.

Statistics from Hunan Water Resource Department (WRD) reveal that since October 1st, the province has registered an average rainfall of 26mm, which the department says is 84 percent lower than the average of 164mm for the same period in previous years.

297 out of 409 observation stations reported no rainfall at all during that period. As a result, 2,450 of the 13,000 reservoirs in the province have dried up, and 3,679 tributaries have been cut off.

An official from the provincial WRD says the drought has seriously affected hydropower generation. The reduced volume in the Xiang River can only power about 260mkw instead of the full capacity at 704 mkw.

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