China has raised the drought emergency class from level two to level one, the highest alert, in response to the worst drought to hit northern China in half a century.
According to a State Council meeting held Thursday, Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao have ordered all-out efforts to combat the severe drought in the country's vast wheat-growing area to ensure a good summer harvest.
Relevant departments in local regions were asked to enhance farmland management, mobilize human resources, ensure technology service and enlarge irrigation areas.
According to the Office of State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters, the rare drought which began in November has affected more than 10 million hectares of crops by Feb 5. It has threatened 9.5 million hectares of winter wheat, with about 3 million hectares seriously affected.
Zhang Peiqun is a forecaster with the National Climate Center.
"The drought has affected the crops severely on large sections of the country's northern half. Rainfall in most parts of north and central China was 50 to 80 percent less than normal."
In the mean time, some 4.3 million people and more than 2 million livestock lack proper drinking water due to the drought.
E Jingping is head of the State Flood control and Drought Relief Headquarters.
"We will make ensuring the drinking water for people and livestock our top priority while allocating water resources stored by current water projects."
The central government on Thursday decided to earmark another 300 million yuan or 44 million U.S. dollars as drought relief fund in additional to 100 million yuan already allocated. The fund will be used to buy agricultural machinery and other production materials.