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World Bank Project Reduces Soil Erosion
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A World Bank-funded project to prevent soil depletion from China's Loess Plateau has produced encouraging results so far, according to the project's administrators.

As a result of the effort, the surface soil washed away by torrential rains has been reduced by 60 million tons annually, authorities said.

The first and second phases of the 10-year project, initiated in 1994 and 1999, covered 35,568 square kilometers in Shaanxi, Shanxi and Gansu provinces and the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region - areas that have suffered from serious soil erosion.

The World Bank provided a US$300 million loan for the initial work, which cost 4.2 billion yuan (US$507 million) in total.

The first phase of the program raised the forest coverage rate from 18 percent to 41 percent, the per capita income of farmers from 306 yuan to 1,263 yuan and the per capita grain output from 378 kilograms to 532 kilograms.

The Loess Plateau, named after the yellowish soil that covers the area, is the biggest such region in the world. Bounded by the Qinling Mountains and the Weihe Plain in the south, the Great Wall in the north, the Taihang Mountains in the east and the Taohe River and Wuxiao Mountains in the west, it covers all of Shanxi Province, the northern part of Shaanxi Province, most of the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, central and eastern areas of Gansu Province and western section of Henan Province.

Comprising 400,000 square kilometers and rising 800 to 2,000 meters above sea level, it is China's third-biggest plateau. Except for a few highlands and large river valleys, it is covered with a layer of loess 100 to 200 meters deep.

According to historical records, most of the plateau was covered with dense forests, lush grasslands and fertile soil. But predatory reclamation, indiscriminate felling of trees and overuse of grasslands as well as destruction by frequent wars stripped the area of nearly all its forests. Each year, more than a billion tons of mud and silt are swept from the plateau into the Yellow River, the cradle of the Chinese civilization.

(Xinhua News Agency April 12, 2005)

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