From: Reuters
Published December 30, 2005 12:00 AM

Salt Tide Threatens Water Supplies in South China

BEIJING — A severe drought in southern China's Guangdong province is letting sea water flow further up rivers than usual, contaminating fresh water with salt and disrupting normal supplies, state media said on Thursday.

The cities of Zhuhai, Zhongshan and a district of the provincial capital Guangzhou have been affected, and local governments are advising people in certain areas not to drink tap water, the official China Daily said.

But Shenzhen, which borders Hong Kong and is home to China's second most important stock market, has not been affected as its main river is still full of water, the newspaper said.

"The biggest salt water tide this year has now reached the province and it will last ... until Jan. 8 next year," the report quoted Huang Qingliang, vice-director of the Guangdong Department of Water Resources, as saying.

Water flows through one of the main tributaries of the Pearl River are less than half of last year because of the drought, which began in 2004, the newspaper said.


Three water plants in Dongguan city, where many Hong Kong and Taiwanese investors have factories, have been shut because salinity levels are five times higher than normal, the Guangzhou Daily added.

But the financial hub of Hong Kong should not be impacted, a government spokesman said, as the territory gets its water from a place in Guangdong which has never been affected by salinity.

"We are in close contact with authorities there," the spokesman for the Water Supplies Department said. "If the water quality is abnormal we will be informed quickly."

It is China's third water crisis in less than two months, and the second in Guangdong this month.

In November, an explosion at a chemical plant in China's northeastern province of Jilin poisoned drinking water for millions and sent a frozen, poisonous slick heading towards Russia.

Earlier in December, a spill of toxic cadmium forced authorities in areas downstream to turn off tap water supplies to tens of thousands of people in Guangdong.

China's top environmental minister resigned after the Nov. 13 Jilin accident and a vice mayor in charge of evacuating the city where the explosion occurred was said to have hanged himself.

(Additional reporting by Tan Ee Lyn in Hong Kong)

Source: Reuters

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