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Desert land set to be reclaimed

China Daily

China's forestry authority plans to reclaim large areas of land over the next decade under a national desert-control plan.

"Land desertification is the most important ecological problem in China. It causes erosion to the available space for people's existence and development, provokes natural disasters like sandstorms, and endangers agricultural production by degrading the land," Zhang Yongli, deputy director of the State Forestry Administration, said at a news conference on Wednesday.

The national plan for preventing and controlling desertification was published by seven government departments, including the State Forestry Administration, the Ministry of Environmental Protection and the Ministry of Agriculture.

According to statistics released on the website of the Ministry of Land and Resources, China is one of the most serious desertification zones in the world, with 2.62 million square kilometers of land, or 27.4 percent of the country's area, desertified, affecting almost 400 million people.

The plan, however, sets the goal of recovering more than 50 percent of reclaimable desertified land by 2020.

"We will carry out this plan in two phases: the first phase is from 2011 to 2015, and the second is from 2016 to 2020. In each phase, we will finish harnessing 10 million hectares of desertified land," Zhang said.

China's efforts to reclaim land has already achieved progress in reducing desertification, Zhang said.

"For example, in the late 1990s, desertified regions were increasing 3,436 sq km yearly, while the total desertified regions are now decreasing 1,717 sq km per year on average," Zhang said.

Despite the achievements, China's desertification control efforts need to be more consistent, said Liu Tuo, head of the Desertification Control Center under the State Forestry Administration.

On Monday, People's Daily reported that 260 counties and cities in 12 southern provinces are currently suffering desertification, causing drinking water shortages.

"Our new desertification control plan proposes measures to pull us through the challenges we are facing now," Liu said.

The measures include making clear the responsibilities for desertification control, and promoting new sand-control technologies.

Liu also said that public participation in desertification control is very important.

"We should try to let more people know that desertification control can help them shake off poverty and bring them benefits," he said.

 

chengyingqi@chinadaily.com.cn