Reversing Desertification

About one-third of China's territory, with a population of 400 million people, mostly in the impoverished western regions, has been facing a serious desertification problem. But the country is preparing to start reversing this trend within the next 10 years.

Zhou Shengxian, director of the State Forestry Administration (SFA), made the announcement Wednesday in Beijing at an international conference aimed at combating the problem through international and bilateral cooperation.

According to Zhou, by 2030, through the consolidation of cumulative achievements, significant progress will have been made in forcing the deserts to retreat. By 2050, all reclaimable desertified land will have been brought under basic control and co-ordinated economic, social and ecological development will prevail in areas that are currently desertified.

To halt the further onset of dersertification, China has laid out an overall plan of intensifying nationwide massive afforestation and grass growing, converting highly erodible cropland back into grassland or woodland, protecting the existing vegetation in the environmentally fragile western regions and banning any illegal land reclamation, Zhou said.

The overall desert area in China is 2.622 million square kilometres, occupying 27.3 percent of the country's total land territory, official statistics indicate. Annually, direct economic losses caused by desertification total 54 billion yuan (US$6.52 billion). Worst of all, 2,460 square kilometres of land is lost to desert each year owing to natural phenomena such as persistent droughts and human activities, mainly overlogging, overfarming and overgrazing.

In 1978, China began to implement a forest shelterbelt development programme in its northern, northwestern and northeastern areas and initiated a nationwide campaign to fight against desertification in 1991.

The shelterbelt, the largest of its kind in the world, also known as the "Great Green Wall," has succeeded in bringing protection to over 60 percent of China's more than 133 million hectares of cultivated lands, thus preventing them from being ravaged or damaged by moving sand dunes.

(China Daily 06/07/2001)

In This Series

Afforestation Plan Makes Major Progress

Desert Prevention Policy Planned

China Determined to Curb Desertification


China Loses 54 Billion Yuan Through Desertification Every Year


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