90% of China's grasslands deteriorated

Updated: 2011-08-12 14:16


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90% of China's grasslands deteriorated
North Tibet Grassland [Photo/Xinhua]

HULUN BUIR, Inner Mongolia-- Ninety percent of China's 400 million hectares of grassland are deteriorated to some degree, an agricultural official said, referring to the protection of grasslands as an "extremely pressing task."

Gao Hongbin, vice minister of agriculture, made the remarks at a national work conference on the protection of pasturing area. Officials came to an agreement at the conference to spend the next ten years revamping China's deteriorating pastures by prioritizing environmental protection.

Gao's call came on the heels of a government circular that stated that the government will make efforts to protect the environment and increase economic growth in pasturing areas, the deterioration of which have lead to desertification and sandstorms.

The State Council, or China's Cabinet, published a circular on Tuesday promising tax breaks and funding for enterprises in rural areas that have made efforts to establish environmentally friendly programs, as well as those that have made technological innovations in the field.

The government will also provide subsidies for cattle herders in northern and western China, as these herders will be prohibited from allowing their cattle to graze on severely damaged grasslands.

China's total amount of pasturing area stands at more than 4 million square km, or more than 40 percent of the country's total area.

Despite the government's endeavors to protect these areas, challenges remain in protecting the grasslands due to increased human activity, desertification and disasters caused by mice and other pests.

Desertification is estimated to cause direct economic losses of 54 billion yuan ($8.44 billion) annually, Tang Yuan, a researcher from a State Council think tank, said in a previous interview with Xinhua.