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China calls for cooperation in combating desertification
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Chinese Vice Premier Hui Liangyu on Tuesday called for global cooperation in fighting desertification.

He made the remarks at the opening ceremony of an international conference on controlling desertification.

Hui called on countries to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) to faithfully fulfill their pledges to continue their fight against desertification. The Convention went into force in 1996. China signed it in October 1994 and ratified it in February 1997.

Desertification affects two thirds of the countries and one fifth of the population in the world, said Hui.

He hoped all participating countries would respect development models in harmony with nature, transform their way of production and living, and make efforts to plant trees and grasses to achieve sustainable development.

Hui stressed the importance of setting down national strategies to fight desertification and incorporate them into the country's overall economic and social development program.

He said the conference would help to strengthen international cooperation and share experience in combating desertification among more than 50 participating countries, regions and international organizations.

China had been trying to contain desertification and years of efforts had paid off.

"The deserts are becoming smaller and ecological environment in some regions is improving noticeably," Hui said.

China's deserts are shrinking by 7,585 sq km annually due to the efforts of local governments and people, compared with an annual expansion of 10,400 sq km at the end of last century, according to official statistics.

"Human impact, particularly the rapid increase in population and excessive land-use, was mainly responsible for the ecological and environmental deterioration in northern China in the past century," Wang Tao, a leading desertification control scientist with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said at the event.

The three-day conference was jointly held by the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations and the State Forestry Administration of China.

(Xinhua News Agency January 23, 2008)

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