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World Bank Helps Reduce Run-off Soil on Loess Plateau

A 10-year project to harness run-off soil on the Loess Plateau funded by World Bank loans has produced encouraging results, according to the Office for Loess Plateau Water and Soil Conservancy Project.

The project has harnessed 920,000 hectares of land area that suffered serious soil erosion. The amount of the plateau's surface soil washed away by torrential rains has been reduced by 60 million tons annually, according to the office.

The first and second phases of the harnessing project, initiated in 1994 and 1999, covered 35,568 square kilometers in Shaanxi, Shanxi, Gansu provinces and the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, 32,347 square kilometers of which suffer serious soil erosion.

The World Bank provided a loan of US$300 million for the first and second phases of the project, which costs 4.2 billion yuan (US$507 million) in total.

The first phase project raised the local forest coverage rate to 41.1 percent from the former 17.8 percent, the per capita income for local farmers to 1,263 yuan (US$152.72) from the former 306 yuan (US$37) and the per capita grain output to 532 kilograms from the former 378 kilograms.

The Loess Plateau, named after the yellowish soil which covers the area, is the biggest loess plateau in the world. Bounded by the Qinling Mountains and the Weihe Plain in the south, the Great Wall in the north, the Taihang Mountains in the east and the Taohe River and Wuxiao Mountains in the west, it includes the entire Shanxi Province, northern Shaanxi, the greater part of the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, central and eastern Gansu and western Henan.

Covering 400,000 sq km and rising 800-2,000 m above sea level ( some of the higher peaks exceeding 2,500 m), it is the third largest plateau of China. Except for a few highlands and large river valleys, it is covered with a layer of loess 100-200 m deep.

According to historical records, most of the plateau once was covered with dense forests, lush grasslands and fertile soil. But, predatory reclamation, indiscriminate felling of trees and overuse of grasslands by the landlords as well as destruction by frequent wars stripped the area practically of all its forests. Each year, more than a billion tons of mud and silt are carried down into the Yellow River, the second longest river and the cradle of the Chinese civilization.

(Xinhua News Agency April 11, 2005)

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