There is 320,000 square km of land threatened by desertification in China, a State Forestry Administration (SFA) official said on Sunday.
"From 2001 to 2004, the area of sandy land shrank by 1,283 square km each year, but desertification is still menacing some parts of China," Wang Xinjian, deputy director of the SFA's Desertification Prevention Center, said at a seminar held in Shanghai on curbing desertification.
According to a national survey conducted by the SFA in 2004, 18 percent, or 1.74 million sq km of China's territory, is sandland. Direct economic losses from desertification is about 50 billion yuan (US$6.8 billion) a year, affecting 400 million people.
Recent research has found ecological degradation at the headwaters of the Yellow River and Yangtze River, China's two biggest rivers, and signs of desertification have emerged in some parts of the river source area, the official said.
"The SFA will reinforce protection in these areas by taking such measures as restricting herding or logging," Wang said. "We hope the public, especially the rural population, can be involved in efforts on preventing desertification."
Sunday marks the World Day to Combat Desertification.
(Xinhua News Agency June 18, 2007)