Holding Back The Desert

01 Mar 2006

A UN study published last year claimed that deteriorations to the environment, including growing desertification in China, could force an estimated 50 million people to leave their homes by 2010.

In an official decision issued by the Xinhua News Agency yesterday, the Chinese State Council announced that extra efforts will be made to halt the encroachment of deserts, which now occupy almost a fifth of the national territory.

It added that an ‘environmental repair campaign’ undertaken in the late 1990s had reduced the spread of desert from 3,436 square kilometers to 1,283 square kilometers a year.

The State Council promised that, by 2010, China will have made ‘clear improvements’ in key areas, and that, by 2020, half of the country’s reparable desert will have been repaired. Problems caused by expanding deserts generate annual economic losses of 50 billion yuan, the document added.

Under the new scheme, local officials will be responsible for desert repair in their areas of competence. The areas particularly at risk are frontier lands occupied by ethnic groups such as Tibetans and Uighurs. Farmers and herders in such areas will be resettled.

The decision stated that ‘Rampant firewood gathering, land reclamation and grazing, as well as shortages of water resources and their irrational use, are quite serious problems, and the task of holding back and repairing deserts remains extremely arduous.’

Xinhua News Agency

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