Wednesday, 5 January 2011

China gains in battle against desertification but long fight ahead

The Guardian today has a brief but interesting article regarding the ongoing problem of desertification in China—one of the flip sides to the stories about what is commonly regarded as a nascent superpower:
China has gained a sliver of ground in its ancient battle against the desert sands, the government announced today, though it warned another 300 years may be needed to solve "the most serious ecological problem facing the country".

A survey showed more than a quarter of China's land remained either degraded or lost to sand and gravel due to a combination of a naturally dry climate, centuries of over-cultivation and decades of excessive demand on water and soil from the world's biggest population and fastest growing economy.

Unveiling the results, state forestry officials said desertification had been stabilised, but recovery efforts would have to be stepped up. Despite the world's biggest tree-planting campaign, the relocation of millions of "eco-migrants" and restrictions on herding and farming, the report noted the "desertification trend has not fundamentally reversed".

There were small signs of improvement. In the five years to 2010, the authors estimated the area of desert had shrunk by an annual average of 1,717 square kilometres. This was 40% better than the results from 2000-05, the first in China's history to ever show a gain.

But 1.7m hectares - more than six times the area of the UK - is still covered in sand dunes or gobi gravel desert. An even wider swathe of land is plagued by wind and water erosion or salination. The report said desertification continued to pose a "serious hidden danger" to China's security and its capacity for economic development.
 Read the other half of the article as well...

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