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Probe launched into soil erosion threat
By Liang Chao (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-07-05 06:05

A comprehensive scientific investigation into soil erosion, which threatens more than a third of China's territory, was launched on Sunday.

Boats in Xuyi County, Jiangsu Province, anchor in the Huaihe River because of shrinking water levels after the persistent drought. The water level in the river's Jiangsu section has fallen to 11.6 metres - only 0.3 metres higher than the dead water level, forcing 6,000 boats to moor at Huaihe, one of the major rivers in the country. [newsphoto]
"More than 200 experts in the fields of ecology, environment, water and soil resources, law and policy-making will be involved in the action, the largest war on soil erosion China has launched in 56 years," officials announced.

Launching the investigation in Beijing, Liu Zhen, director of the water and soil conservation department under the Ministry of Water Resources, said the experts, including 23 academics from the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and the Academy of Engineering of China, will seek a way of curbing the erosion problem.

In the coming 18 months, eight special groups and three research teams will travel throughout the country to look into how serious the soil erosion problem across China actually is, he said.

An overall plan has been drawn up to look into how soil has eroded away the country's northwest loess area and desert region, the upstream area of the Yangtze River, the black soil area in the northeast, the earth-rock mountain area of the north, the red soil area in the south, the stone deserts of southwestern provinces and regions under mass construction.

One of the most important missions of the scheme, he said, is to raise public awareness of how vital it is to protect water and soil resources to protect the environment.

"We hope the investigation can help accelerate China's soil erosion control and find key strategies for decision-makers," said Liu.

The investigation will enable experts to assess the problems and control them, say experts.

Once complete, goals, standards, technological channels and appropriate solutions to slow or halt soil erosion-control in the next two decades will be drawn up.

Erosion caused by water, wind, freezing, melting - for example, landslides and mud-rock flows - have affected 3.56 million square kilometres of the country's land mass, or 37.1 per cent of its total territory, a national survey found in 2004.

"We must upgrade our concepts and better understand the relationship between people and nature today, as the sustainability of water and soil has become a key factor restricting China's future development," said Sun Honglie, a senior CAS academic.

China has, since the 1990s, been facing ever-increasing ecological and social issues brought about by its rapid economic growth. 

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