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More Land Hit by Sand as Desertification Intensifies
Nearly one-fifth of China's land has become desertified due to natural and human factors, forestry chiefs said yesterday.

A national survey reveals areas now classified as "sandy land" top 1.74 million square kilometers - affecting 18.2 percent of the country's total territory at the end of 1999.

This represents a net increase of 17,180 square kilometers of sandy land -- which is the transitional state of soil before it prevents any cultivation -- in just five years, the State Forestry Administration (SFA) said.

Distribution covered almost all of China's provinces, with 97 percent concentrated in 10 arid or semi-arid provinces and autonomous regions in the west.

China's deserts witnessed a net increase of 52,000 square kilometers between 1995-99.

Now six national programs have been launched by the government to halt the spread of deserts, rehabilitate ecosystems in semi-arid areas and prevent more dry land from turning into sandy soil or desert-like areas.

These projects are designed to cover more than 85 percent of China's sandy land to form a framework for the country's long-term strategy of controlling desertification.

The National Afforestation Committee (NAC) yesterday honored individuals and organizations for their outstanding efforts in controlling the spread of sandy land.

Shi Guangyin and 100 other individuals plus 100 units engaged in afforestation were commended by forestry and personnel authorities at a ceremony in Beijing, for their decades of work on improving land quality and preventing desertification.

The event was held in the Great Hall of the People to commemorate the eighth World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought.

Honored as "the National Hero of Controlling Sandy Soil" -- the highest title of its kind in China -- Shi, a farmer from desert-threatened Dingbian County in Northwest China's Shaanxi Province, has succeeded in bringing 13,000 hectares of sandy soil under effective control and turning them into productive soil through planting trees and grasses.

"What Shi and the others did is a precious treasure of the Chinese nation," said SFA Director Zhou Shengxian.

"It should be followed by more people to support China's intensified fight against expanding sandy land and worsening desertification in the years ahead."

Zhou said the country "has not fundamentally reversed the trend of deteriorating ecosystems, with desertification worsening as drought persists and human activities, like over farming and overgrazing, increase."

(China Daily June 18, 2002)

Desert Mass Moves Steadily into Beijing
Oasis Refreshing Project to Control Desert, Storms
Law Designed to Help Control Desertification
Exploring Opportunities in the Desert
Turning Sandy Waste Into Oasis
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