From virtual 'ant forest' to reality in Inner Mongolia

By Wang Yiming
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, July 31, 2019
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Virtual Caragana korshinskii shrubs on "ant forest" Alipay accounts becomes a reality in Horqin Right Wing Middle Banner, Inner Mongolia autonomous region. [Photo by Wang Yiming/]

Anyone with an "ant forest" Alipay account who happens to travel to the Horqin Right Wing Middle Banner of the Inner Mongolia autonomous region can see virtual Caragana korshinskii raised on a cellphone become a reality, as part of a way of protecting the environment.

The popular "ant Forest" is a product on Alibaba's Alipay platform, which aims to encourage users to record their low-carbon footprint like taking public transport, paying utility bills or booking tickets online and turn virtual trees that users grow on the platform into real ones. In the process, they are contributing to tree-planting and vital moves in environmental protection.

The "ant forest" project aimed at combating desertification was launched in the Banner last year.

The project covers seven Sumus (township-level administrative division in the region) and three state-owned forest farms. Having leveled the land, drilled wells and finished other preliminary work, Ant Financial, in collaboration with its charity partners, began to plant trees and shrubs in this Banner in April. The planting area of Caragana korshinskii and other plants will eventually cover 30,000 mu (about 2,000 hectares).

Caragana korshinskii, a kind of shrub that can withstand long periods of drought, high-temperature in desert conditions, serves as a windbreak to protect soil from erosion, helping restore desertified land in the Banner.

Zhuang Zi (L), deputy director of the forestry and grassland administration of Horqin Right Wing Middle Banner is introducing the ecological benefits brought by the "ant forest" project to the reporter. [Photo by Wang Yiming/]

Zhuang Zi, deputy director of the forestry and grassland administration in this Banner, explained: "In the past, serious environmental damage was caused here due to lack of public awareness about environmental protection, and improper activities of local farmers and herdsmen. Without diverse vegetation, this area was prone to sand-dust storms and desertification."

According to Zhuang, in recent years, enormous efforts had gone into ecological-conservation work, of which the "ant forest" project is an integral part. Grazing, reclamation, and lumbering are strictly prohibited. 

Positive results have been achieved in vegetation restoration. The area of sand land has decreased year by year, dropping from nearly 407,000 hectares to 46,670 hectares. The comprehensive vegetation coverage rate of grassland has increased to 63% and forest coverage to 17.64%. 

"Apart from the benefits in ecological restoration, the planted Caragana korshinskii can also be used as biomass fuel and fodder in the future," Zhuang added.

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