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Scientists find a cure for shifting sands
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China has developed an advanced sand-solidifying technology, which will be used along the Qinghai-Tibet Railway to save the highest railway in the world from the ravages of the desert.

The development, named "OH sand-solidifying and foliage-planting technology", is being experimented on in Qinghai, a seriously sand eroded province in northwest China, a local scientist said on Monday.

"The main part of the technological development is a special kind of sand-solidifying drug," said Li Runjie, chief of the project under the Qinghai Provincial Water Conservancy and Hydropower Scientific Research Institute.

According to the experiment, after sowing grass seeds, pouring water and fertilizer into a plot of sand, the treatment was sprayed on the sand surface. In one to two hours, the sand became solid. Grass grew out of the solidified sand in about 15 days.

"The chemical treatment, which is able to solidify the sand into a rubber-like solid earth, has no poisonous or harmful elements," the expert said.

"The solidified sand can hold water, thus efficiently preventing evaporation," he said

According to Li, the experimental test has been conducted at the origin of the Yellow River in Qinghai since May last year.

"We have also tested the development in some areas along the Qinghai-Tibet Railway," he said, adding that it successfully solidified the flowing sand that was threatening the railway.

The Qinghai-Tibet Railway, running 1,956 kilometers from Xining city in Qinghai province to Lhasa in Tibet, has 960 km of the track at 4,000 meters above sea level and the highest point at 5,072 meters. It was officially put into operation in July 2006. It is the highest railway in the world and ended Tibet's history without a railway.

Soils around the Qinghai-Tibet Railway have been turning into desert because of dry temperatures and strong winds, threatening the safety of the trains.

Chinese scientists have tried to prevent the soil along the railway from the danger of becoming a desert since the late 1980s, when the railway was in the design stage.

(Xinhua News Agency, March 11, 2008)

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