The topography of Ningxia slants toward the north with an elevation from 1,100 to 2,000 meters. The highest point is 3,556 meters above sea level.
Ningxia boasts 0.71 million hectares of wasteland suitable for farming, one of China's eight provinces and autonomous regions each with more than 0.63 million hectares of wasteland suitable for agriculture. There are 3 million hectares of exploitable meadows, making Ningxia one of the ten major pastures in China. The Weining Plain that features 0.37 million hectares of land irrigated with water diverted from the Huanghe River is one of the four principal areas with gravity irrigation in northwest China. For years, the annual runoff of the Huanghe River through Ningxia has remained at 32.5 billion cubic meters, and the water resources allocated to Ningxia by the state for irrigation are 4 billion cubic meters.
The rich land resources, convenient conditions to divert water from the Huanghe River for irrigation, and abundant sunshine have laid a solid foundation for Ningxia to bring into play its advantages in the development of agriculture. Crops, melons, and other fruit are doing well in the irrigated area. Watermelon, apple, and grape from the irrigated area have a 15-20 percent higher sugar content than those produced in central China. The per-hectare yield of single-cropping paddy reaches 10,500 kilograms, placing Ningxia in front among the provinces and autonomous regions in western China and turning it into one of the nation's 12 grain production bases. Effort is being taken to build Ningxia into a national agricultural demonstration area with high yield, high efficiency, and fine quality.
Livestock breading makes up of 29 percent of the local agriculture. Of the 82,000-hectare water surfaces, 10,000 hectares can be used for aquaculture. Ningxia produces various species of carp, river shrimp, and river crabs. There is a great potential for the development of aquaculture. In recent years, Ningxia has seen a rapid development of the aquatic production. It leads other provinces and autonomous regions in the northwest in the per-capita output of aquatic products.
Ningxia is rich in mineral resources, with verified deposits of 50 kinds of minerals including coal, gypsum, oil, natural gas, pottery clay, quartz sandstone, and barite. The potential value of these natural resources per capita is 163.5 percent of the nation's average, putting Ningxia fifth in the country. There are abundant reserves of various kinds of coal. Ningxia has formed a considerable scale of coal production. It leads the country in the deposits of gypsum, with verified deposits of more than 4.5 billion tons. Top-grade gypsum makes up half of the total deposits. The Huojiakouzi deposit in Tongxin County features a reserve of 20 tons of gypsum in 20 layers with a total thickness of 100 meters. It is a rarely-seen large gypsum in China. The reserve of oil and natural gas is ideal for a large-scale development of oil, natural gas, and chemical industries. There is a considerable deposit of quartz sandstone, of which 17 million tons have been ascertained. In addition, there are phosphorus, firestone, copper, iron, other minerals as well as Helan stone (a special clay stone).
Environment and current issues
In 2003, additional efforts to protect and construct ecological environment in the region as a whole were intensified, and the achievements in satisfying the emission standard for industrial pollution source were consolidated. In the light of the scenario of the Greater Yinchuan Area and corresponding urbanization drive, new achievements were registered in the aspect of curbing environmental pollution and bringing the pollution under control in urban areas.
There are 670 people working in the environmental protection system in the region, and 257 people in the 14 environment monitoring stations at various levels. About 59 projects for the treatment and control of environmental pollution were fulfilled within the designated time, completing an investment worth 94.795 million yuan. One of the planned greening projects was accomplished, completing an investment of 107.91 million yuan.
In the entire region there are 30 smoke-control zones, covering an area of 150.3 square km; and 30 zones meeting the standard for noise-control, covering an area of 108.1 square km. The region is home to 12 nature reserves at the regional level, five nature reserves at the national level and two eco-demonstration regions.