The desert encroachment in west China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region has become more serious in recent years, with the desert area increasing at a speed of 400 square kilometers a year, according to Memet Abudulla, director of the local forestry bureau.
As a region with a long history of the most serious desertification and with the largest desert area in China, Xinjiang has been bothered by ecological problems such as sand blown by the wind, drought, salinization and soil erosion, said Memet.
According to statistics, the current desertification area in Xinjiang is 795,900 square kilometers, covering 47.7 percent of the total area of the autonomous region.
"Moreover, over 10 million mu (1.2 million hectares) of farmland and 200 million mu (24.1 million hectares) of grassland are being harassed by sand blown by the wind, and 30 poverty counties are in this region," said Memet.
"The situation is attributed to the historical problem of small forest vegetation in this region that is not evenly distributed and of bad quality," Memet said.
He said that in order to reverse the trend, great efforts have been made by the local authorities to plant trees to make this region green in recent years.
Since 2000, 11.89 million mu (1.43 million hectares) of forests have been planted in the autonomous region and the forest coverage rate has increased from 1.92 percent in 2000 to 2.1 percent now.
(Xinhua News Agency January 25, 2004)