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China reports drastic decline in sandstorms
( 2003-06-20 11:17) (Xinhua)

China reported a drastic decline in sandstorms with only seven sandstorms having been reported between March and May this year, according to a State Forestry Administration report.

The figure was compared to the 18 sandstorms in 2001, and 12 in 2002, according to the report made public on Wednesday.

This year, the report noted, only five provinces and autonomous regions were struck by sandstorms against nearly half of China last year. Areas affected included the northwestern Xinjiang, Gansu, Qinghai and Ningxia, and the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in northern China.

Not a single sandstorm was reported in the national capital of Beijing, which was frequented by sandstorms in previous years.

Compared to the first five months of 2002, Beijing reported a 48.9 percent drop in suspended particulate matter in the air, and the number of days with good air quality was 11 more than the same period last year.Between March and May, a total of one million people, more than 10 million hectares of arable land and 62 million hectares of grassland were affected by sandstorms.

The figures were 80, 69 and 54 per cent lower respectively than last year's figures, the report said.The decline in the number of sandstorms this spring was attributed to adequate rainfalls in western China from last winter to this spring and to the fact that the vegetation coverage rate in the sandstorm source areas had increased, said an official with the desertification control center of the State Forestry Administration.

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