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China: Battle against desert gets costly
(China Daily)
Updated: 2009-09-01 09:55

While China is winning the battle against the creeping expansion of its deserts, the destructive force behind the phenomenon still costs about 120 billion yuan every year, and threatens 15 percent of local species with extinction, says an official with the State Forestry Administration.

Liu Tuo, chief of the administration's sand prevention and control office, said desertification - the gradual transformation of arable land into desert - poses a serious threat to the environment.

He told the Kubuqi International Desert Forum held in Inner Mongolia that the government needs to implement better policies and the community needs to be mobilized to help in its control.

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"Desertification causes a sharp reduction in biological diversity, damages biological varieties and groups, leads to a decline in productivity and a fall in living capacity," Liu said.

Some 15 percent of species in these habitats were now endangered, he said.

The forum, entitled "Desert? Technology? New Energy" attracted more than 200 officials, scholars and entrepreneurs, who gathered to discuss ways to protect the environment.

Wang Tao, the leading desertification research scientist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said China has achieved remarkable progress in controlling desertification in recent decades.

Across the country, desert areas were shrinking by 7,585 sq km annually because of the efforts, including the planting of trees and grass.

This compares with an annual expansion of 10,400 sq km at the end of the last century, he said.

Desertification is caused by destructive human forces like cutting down trees and overgrazing animals. More needs to be done to control it, he said.

This includes encouraging local businesses to participate in control measures, like planting trees and finding new uses for sand.

"The development of green recycling is the social responsibility for every local enterprise," said Wang Wenbiao, the vice president of the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce and chairman of Elion Resources Group.