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Sunday, 5 May, 2002, 11:25 GMT 12:25 UK
Chinese water shipped to Taiwan
Dry riverbeds
Taiwan is bringing in restrictions on water use
A ship carrying 2,300 tonnes of water has arrived in drought-stricken Taiwan after a groundbreaking decision by Taipei to allow limited water shipments from China.

The Taiwanese vessel docked at the island of Matsu, one of the worst affected areas. Local officials are considering buying 50,000 tonnes of water from China - a month's supply - if the drought continues.

However Taiwan's cabinet has said the shipment should be seen as a one-off, and has warned against relying on Chinese assistance.


This is the first time we have been allowed to buy water from the mainland... something that was unthinkable before

Matsu official
This voyage is the first approved by Taipei since it lifted a half-century ban on direct transport, commerce and postal links between Kinmen and Matsu islands with mainland China in January 2001.

Lying in the Taiwan Strait, Matsu is controlled by Taipei. It is mainly populated by a Taiwanese military garrison.

An official on Matsu, which is nearer the Chinese coast than to the main island of Taiwan said: "This is the first time we have been allowed to buy water from the mainland - something that was unthinkable before."

"We have been waiting for rains for months. The situation is quite desperate," he added.

Rationing

Previous requests from Taiwan's islands to import water from China had been turned down by Taipei authorities over security fears.

China and Taiwan have been bitter rivals since their split in 1949 following a civil war.

China regards Taiwan as a renegade province that must be re-unified with the mainland, by force if necessary.

On Taiwan itself, restrictions on water use have been imposed in some areas. Swimming pools have been closed and the authorities are no longer watering public parks or using water to clean the streets.

They are warning that the restrictions will increase if the severe water shortage continues.

See also:

24 Apr 02 | Asia-Pacific
Taiwan battles drought
08 Mar 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: Taiwan
13 Mar 02 | Business
Drought threatens Taiwan tech firms
26 Aug 01 | Asia-Pacific
Taiwan to review China ban
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