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,
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)