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Dustbowl to oasis, thanks to green team
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China has created a "man-made oasis" along its longest inland river in the arid northwest through planting trees and grass and infusing lake water into the river with its lower reaches having dried up 30 years ago.

In the past seven years, the Tarim River Administration has infused 2.3 billion cubic meters of water from lakes 300 kilometers away into the 1,321km river that flows along the rim of the barren Tarim Basin, a sparsely populated area about the size of Poland.

The waterway is the "mother river" feeding 43.5 square kilometers of oasis inhabited by at least eight million people - 80 percent of whom are Uygurs. They account for about 40 percent of the population in the Xinjiang Ugyur Autonomous Region.

"The infusion has resumed water flow in the lower reaches and saved the Euphrates poplars from extinction," said Yu Tao, an official with the administration.

The Euphrates poplars, with golden leaves of various shapes, draw large crowds of tourists and photographers to the Tarim Basin every fall.

The poplars used to cover 54,000 hectares in the Tarim Basin in the 1950s. Yet excessive cultivation and lack of water pushed the trees to the verge of extinction over the past three decades.

The eight water-infusion projects conducted since 2000 have expanded the water surface in the lower reaches of the Tarim River by 149 square kilometers and 180 square kilometers of vegetation has been restored, said Yu.

"Aquatic birds, red deer, hares and wild boars have reappeared in the Euphrates poplar forests," he said.

Tarim River used to end at Lop Nur Lake, once the largest saltwater lake in China that has gone dry due to environmental deterioration.

Ambitious land-reclamation activities along the river over the past five decades also squandered too much water in irrigation.

(Xinhua News Agency October 16, 2007)

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