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Oasis in the Taklamakan Desert
A green corridor on the edge of the Taklamakan Desert in western China -- like a long green ribbon – was found by an international organization through satellite photography.

The green corridor is the “Kekeya green protective screen” built by the army based in the border area and local residents from various ethnic groups through a 16-year program.

The Kekeya green protective screen, which lies to the west of Aksu in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, stretches 4 kilometers (2.49 miles) from east to west and 25 kilometers (15.53 miles) from south to north.

Up to a few years ago, people in this area suffered from fierce sandstorms. During the 1960s and 1970s, eager for greenery, residents devoted themselves to planting grass and trees, but due to inadequate scale, the speed of desertification was faster than the speed of planting. The people of Aksu faced the sand with despair, eager for a comfortable living environment at an early date.

In 1986, the government of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region launched the “Kekeya green protective screen” project to improve the ecological environment. The military officers and soldiers stationed in the border area regarded the area as their hometown, joining local people to battle the desert. The local military command drew up a detailed 10-year afforesting plan.

The sandy soil deposited for thousands of years had become as hard as stone due to salinisation. Even using large bulldozers only allowed a few cubic meters to be dug each day. The soldiers had to use spades, hammers and pickaxes to dig little by little. Many soldiers got blisters on their hands, and their blood dyed the spade handles. Platoon leader Su Jianhong gave up the plan to go back home to get married when he learned his troops were going to participate in the project. He asked his fiancée to go to Kekeya instead from their hometown in Sichuan Province, and they held a special and brief wedding at the planting site. During it, the couple planted a “love tree” to symbolize their love in arduous circumstances.

Zhang Yong, a soldier, set a record for digging the most pots. “Although the soil in the desert is hard and planting trees in the desert is a hard and bitter work, I feel happy because I am giving my hand for the anti-sandstorm project in the western region and Kekeya is going to be greener and greener due to my efforts,” he said.

For a dozen years, the military command has invested more than one hundred thousand man-days for the project. The officers and soldiers have planted some 1 million trees. The tall, straight Xinjing-poplars, the pretty, charming salix matsudana, the whirling grape trellises and all kinds of fruit trees block the fierce wind that used to harm farmland. The mulberries ripen in May, apricots ripen in June, watermelons ripen in July, peaches hang in peach trees in August, and grape trellises are covered with bunches of grapes.

The project has been highly appraised by some international environmental protection organizations. This greening-up project has not only improved the ecological environment and the local residents’ health, but has also turned Kekeja into a new scenic spot attracting visitors from home and abroad.

(china.org.cn by Zhang Tingting, July 3, 2002)

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