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Taiwan Drought*

04/24/2002 - Updated 06:47 AM ET

Taiwan faces worst drought in decades

By Hsu Cheun-hse, AP

Dry riverbeds border low water levels at the Shihmen reservoir in Taipei county on Wednesday.

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Taiwanese authorities are considering nationwide water rationing because of the island's worst drought in two decades, officials said Wednesday.

"Although Taiwan's wet season is just around the corner, we will prepare for the worst," Premier Yu Shyi-kun told reporters.

Water rationing has already begun in several cities and counties, where the opening of swimming pools has been delayed and irrigation has been suspended.

The drought is the island's worst in 20 years, said Chen Shen-hsien, deputy director of the Water Resource Agency. Agency officials will meet Sunday to decide whether islandwide rationing is necessary, he said.

Some rain fell Wednesday, but it was not enough to ease concerns.

Wu Teh-long, the vice director of the Central Weather Bureau's forecast center, said water levels at the island's major dams were at record lows and heavy rain wasn't expected until after mid-May.

That rain could help make up for the shortfall, Wu said. But, "it's good that local governments are already making efforts to conserve water."

Since January, the island's capital of Taipei has received just 280 millimeters (11 inches) of rainfall, about 46 percent of the annual average of the past 30 years, according to the Central Weather Bureau. Rainfall in Kaohsiung, the island's second largest city, totaled 42 millimeters (1.7 inches) or 27 percent of the 30-year average, the bureau said.

Taipei is urging the public to conserve water, and has postponed the opening of 168 public swimming pools and stopped the testing of fire hydrants.

Taiwan's outlying islands of Kinmen and Matsu, which are just kilometers (miles) off China's southeastern coast, are considering buying water from the mainland if the situation continues to worsen. Government officials on both sides of the Taiwan Strait have approved the idea in principle.


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