The planting of trees and grass on sandy land has been an almost
futile effort in China's decades-long battle against expanding
deserts, say environmental experts.
Now Chinese experts believe that leaving deserts alone to restore
themselves, while resolutely protecting existing forests and
grasslands are more effective ecological improvement measures.
official in charge of afforestation in Jingbian County of northwest
China's Shaanxi Province said afforestation campaigns had been of
led local residents to plant trees on wasteland for 40 years, but
finally found neighboring Wuqi county had better forest cover by
sealing off and protecting existing forests," he said.
Water shortages and soil erosion are serious concerns in China
where 37 percent of the territory is affected by soil erosion to
different degrees. During the past half century, people attempted
to plant trees on the verges of deserts, believing that manpower
could finally defeat nature. But at the same time, the country's
numerous forests were felled for the sake of economic
Now the experts and officials and farmers have all gradually
changed their views.
Shi Yuanchun, academician of both the Chinese Academy of Sciences
and the Chinese Academy of Engineering said alleviating soil
erosion and improving the ecological environment should depend on
both human afforestation and natural restoration.
However, the latter method has been proved more effective and
economical, according to decades-long experience, he added.
Xiong Tie, the country's noted soil erosion control expert, said
improving the ecological environment through nature's
self-restoration ability was learnt from the valuable experience of
the country's water resources departments after decades of
the beginning of 2003, the Ministry of Water
Resources organized an investigation into the country's nature
restoration work in 10 provinces and autonomous regions, including
Shaanxi, Inner Mongolia, Shanxi, Jiangxi, Fujian, Guizhou, Sichuan
and Hubei, and compiled a comprehensive report on the country's
forest and grassland rehabilitation.
The report shows that about 25 counties in northwest China's
Shaanxi Province have sealed off their forests; north China's Inner
Mongolia Autonomous Region has imposed a grazing ban on about 10.4
million hectares of grasslands, 16.35 percent of the region's
Meanwhile, north China's other provinces and autonomous regions
such as Shanxi, Ningxia and Hebei announced grazing bans on all
Nowadays, the country's 600,000 sq. km. of forests and grasslands
have been totally sealed off to allow natural restoration.
Liu Zhen, director of the Water and Soil Conservation Department
under the Ministry of Water Resources, said that bans on logging
and grazing were insufficient to rehabilitate forests and
grasslands. Efforts should also be made to help loggers and
herdsmen find new livelihoods.
Muhai, a herdsman in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, said cattle
and sheep were the lifeblood of his ancestors, but today the
younger generations believed preserving the ecological environment
of the grasslands was more important. Helped by the local
government, he now raised his sheep within his farm premises and
his livestock were stout and strong.
(Xinhua News Agency June 13, 2003)