Desertification in China

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Desertification in China

Photographer: Hwee Young How


Inner Mongolia, China¹s third largest province, is fighting severe desertification, much like the provinces of Xinjiang, Gansu, Qinghai, Ningxia, Shaanxi, Heilongjiang and Hebei. Over-grazing, logging, deforestation of land for expanding farms and population pressure, along with droughts have steadily turned vast fertile grasslands into sandy dunes.

Desertification of China's land has caused grave economic losses as farmers abandon parched lands and worsened rural poverty. Winds from the desert whipped up sandstorms across the country which combined with air pollutants spreads as far as North and South Korea, Japan and even North America.

China has adopted measures to stop the land degradation such as reforestation, resettling nomadic Mongolians from grasslands to urban areas and restricting grazing areas. Tree planting has become a key government effort to fight desertification and many non-governmental organizations (NGOs), such as Shanghai Roots & Shoots, are supporting the government’s reforestation endeavors. The NGO launched the Million Tree Project in 2007 in Kulun Qi with the aim to plant its first million trees by 2014 to hinder the expanding desert. At the end of April 2011, they have planted more than 600,000 trees.

Local farmers take care of the trees planted by the volunteers and themselves on plots of land allocated by the local government where they are licensed to harvest the trees that have reached maturity, but only on the condition that they replant on the same plot. Many farmers embraced the tree planting initiative which many see as a win-win situation that protects their crops and provide economic rewards. ‘It is good to plant trees to preserve our land and save them for the next generation,’ says local farmer and grandfather Wang Xide.