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Minqin county battles to hold back Badain Jaran and Tengger deserts

By Zhang Zhao | China Daily | Updated: 2017-09-14 07:34

Decades of afforestation efforts in Minqin county in Wuwei, Gansu province, have prevented the Badain Jaran and Tengger deserts - the third and fourth-largest deserts in China, respectively - from joining, helping to lessen the ecological threat facing North China, according to local officials and experts.

Located at the frontier of China's desertification battle and surrounded by deserts on the east, west and north, Minqin is one of the major sources of the country's sandstorms. Nearly 90 percent of the county's area has become desert.

"In the past, dunes stood next to farmland," said Tao Haixuan, head of the administration of the Liangucheng nature reserve in Minqin. "On windy days, the crops in the fields would die, and roads, electric power facilities and industrial production in the nearby areas would be interrupted.

"Part of the farmland would be buried by the sand and many families that lived near the desert were forced to leave their homes," he said.

The county government said it believes environmental improvement is the primary task in the social development of Minqin. It has implemented a range of systematic measures that integrate government investment, corporate funding and expert technical support, to benefit the local residents.

Minqin county battles to hold back Badain Jaran and Tengger deserts

"If the oasis of Minqin were devoured by the desert, the Hexi Corridor - a major part of the ancient Silk Road - would probably be cut in the middle," said Tao.

The county has been able to plant and preserve 153,240 hectares of forest. Along its 408-kilometer boundary with the deserts, more than 300 km is now covered with protective forests. The county's forest coverage has now reached 17.7 percent, up from 11.2 percent in 2009.

Since 2010, the county has been planting more than 3,000 hectares of new forests each year. Government officials, local residents, companies and professional teams are all involved in the afforestation efforts.

Various plants, including trees, bushes and grass, are planted in different locations according to their varying landscapes.

By the end of 2015, Minqin had planted more than 31,000 hectares of fruit trees and about 7,400 hectares of herbs used in medicines, which are jointly managed by companies, cooperatives and farmers.

Twelve companies in the county are involved in forestry-related businesses, with more than 5,000 employees in total. The sector generates 50 million yuan ($7.7 million) in revenue each year.

The government of Wuwei city plans to create a 562-km-long, 1-km-wide forest belt from 2015 to 2020 at the border area between Gansu and the Inner Mongolia autonomous region. Around 448 km of that stretch is in Minqin.

The local government has been working closely with universities and research organizations, including the Cold and Arid Regions Environmental and Engineering Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and the Gansu Desert Control Research Institute. Together, they conduct research on the recovery of desertified land and the building of wetland parks.

The county has some top experts in the sector and every village has dedicated technicians.

Four pilot areas for desert prevention and treatment have been built, using new materials and techniques.

Minqin county battles to hold back Badain Jaran and Tengger deserts

(China Daily 09/14/2017 page12)

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