URUMQi -- China plans to invest 18.7 billion yuan (US$2.46B) in the next
eight years to try to roll back desertification in northwest China's Xinjiang
Uygur Autonomous Region, the regional government announced Tuesday.
The investment is earmarked to prevent the further expansion of the
Gurbantunggut Desert in the Junggar Basin of northern Xinjiang, and the
expansion of the Taklimakan Desert in the Tarim Basin in the south of the
The money will be spent building forest belts around cities and oasis areas,
upgrading irrigation facilities, setting up monitoring stations and training
professional staff, said Ismail Tiliwaldi, chairman of the region.
The central government will cover 80 percent of the total investment, and the
remaining 20 percent will be financed by the regional government, he said,
adding that the aim is to cut the desert area by 7.6 million hectares by 2015.
Xinjiang is among Chinese regions most affected by desertification.
Statistics from the regional government show 75 million hectares of the region's
land, or 45 percent of its total, is desert. At least 12 million people suffer
the consequences, ranging from drinking water shortages to cropland infertility.
Before the 1980s, residents of Qira county on the southern edge of Junggar
Basin had to relocate three times to avoid being devoured by sand.
"The desert is expanding less rapidly now. We have managed to reduce the
speed of expansion from 38,400 hectares a year to 10,400 hectares a year, but
the situation is still very severe," Tiliwaldi said.
Earlier reports say excessive herding and farming has worsened soil erosion
and desertification in the region. An official with the regional water resources
administration said irrational human activities have undermined the government's
soil conservation efforts.
Zhang Funian, an engineer in the region's rural resources work station, said
residents in Hotan County near the Taklimakan Desert are still using wood as
fuel, because they cannot afford coal. Every family cuts 500 kilograms of wood
Since 2003, the county has invested about 200 million yuan (US$26M) to
install methane gas facilities to prevent people from cutting down any more
Local residents are also being encouraged to plant trees that resist
desertification, such as poplars, desert dates and sea buckthorns, Zhang said.
Xinjiang has worked with countries including Japan and the Republic of Korea
to fight desertification.
In 2006, China and South Korea co-invested 1.8 million US dollars to build a
shelter forest in the Gobi Desert off Aydingkol Lake in the Turpan Basin.
Statistics from the State Forestry Administration show China has 174 million
square kilometers of desert, accounting for 18.1 percent of the country's