A total of 13,500 sheep have so far been driven out of the Helan Mountains Nature Reserve in the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region in northwest China, with a view to replenishing the environment in the area.
Located between the barren Tengger Desert and the richly cultivated Yinchuan Plain, the Helan Mountains constitute a natural barrier protecting the plain from being invaded by the rampant sandstorms from the desert.
Since the 1970s, local farmers have grazed hundreds of thousands of sheep in the reserve in an unrestrained manner, destroying the surface vegetation and causing serious soil erosion in the area.
To prevent the environment from deteriorating, the regional government ruled early this year that the sheep must be kept out of the reserve.
So far, the administrative bureau of the reserve has granted as a subsidy some 2.8 million yuan (about 340,000 U.S. dollars) to the farmers grazing sheep there, who are supposed to remove their sheep out of the area by the end of this month.
"The Helan Mountains used to be covered with grass, which has almost been eaten away by sheep," said Li Tianxue, a local farmer who stopped grazing in the reserve a week ago.
"What the government asks us to do is absolutely for the good of the country and society," he said, adding "I will firmly support this move."
(People’s Daily 06/16/2001)