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Local Governments Pledge to Combat Desertification
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Twelve Chinese provincial governments signed responsibility contracts with the State Forestry Administration (SFA) on Tuesday, pledging to make greater efforts during the 2006-2010 period to combat the spread of the country's deserts.


The move aimed to clarify the tasks and responsibilities of the local authorities in fight against desertification, said the SFA.


The 12 provinces and autonomous regions -- including Hebei, Shanxi, Inner Mongolia, Liaoning, Jilin, Heilongjiang, Tibet and Gansu -- must take sand control measures on a total of 8.81 million hectares of land.


North China's Inner Mongolia has the largest area to work on with 3.14 million hectares, followed by Xinjiang, with 1.38 million hectares, and Gansu, with 1.08 million hectares.


The 12 local governments are required to allocate special funds for sand control during the 11th Five-Year Plan period from 2006 to 2010, according to the contracts. As government revenues grow annually, investment must increase.


China's sandy areas are shrinking by 128,300 hectares a year, but they expanded by 343,600 hectares annually from 1995 to 1999.


Although progress had been made, the situation remained severe, said an SFA official.


China has 174 million hectares of sandy areas, which account for 18 percent of its total land area. These areas affect the lives of 400 million people and cause losses of 50 billion yuan a year.


The government would have to spend a total of 238.5 billion yuan (US$30.58 billion) before 2050 to meet its sand control targets, SFA deputy director Zhu Lieke said in May last year.


But currently only two billion yuan is invested annually, he said.


(Xinhua News Agency March 28, 2007)

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