China has accelerated afforestation along the 522-km highway which runs across the Taklimakan Desert in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.
The three-phase tree-planting drive will cover 436 kilometers and cost an estimated investment of 220 million yuan (US$26.5 million). The first phase, lasting from 2003-2004, will cover a distance of 229 kilometers.
As the trees are irrigated by water with high saline content, scientists in Lanzhou of Gansu Province have conducted experiments for 10 years to raise the survival rate and choose plants suitable to grow with salty water.
The scientists planted trees on a 31-km-long section in 2001 and watered them with saline water. The trees had a survival rate of 95 percent, and the test proved that those with small leaves and a maximum height of two meters were the most suitable for life in the desert as they lose moisture slowly and are resistant to arid conditions.
The desert highway winds from Lunnan Oilfield, at the northern edge of the desert, to Minfeng County at the southern edge, dividing into two parts the 340,000-sq-km Taklimakan, the second largest moving desert in the world.
(Xinhua News Agency May 8, 2003)