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Business / Green China

Fewer sandstorms give hope for cleaner air

By Harvey Dzodin (China Daily) Updated: 2014-05-23 07:09

It is depressing being subjected to Beijing's pollution. The World Health Organization standards for the most harmful particles, PM2.5, say that 20 is the recommended maximum safe level, but we are so used to the stratospheric measurements from both the Beijing government and the US Embassy that even my iPhone app doesn't set off alarm bells until the benchmark of 200 is reached. Pollution masks and expensive air filters are now an increasingly visible everyday fashion accessory for most foreigners and many Chinese. Yet as many folks relocate from Beijing, and many more think of doing so, I think of sandstorms and have hope!

Fewer sandstorms give hope for cleaner air

Fewer sandstorms give hope for cleaner air
When I first came to Beijing a decade ago I dreaded springtime, normally my favorite season. It wasn't only the strong winds that could literally bowl a person over, but the sandstorms that invariably accompanied the blasts, blocked our air passages, buffed the shiny finishes off our cars and caused people to wear all sorts of face coverings making them look like something from a Halloween horror movie.

There haven't been any appreciable sandstorms now for a number of years. While we may suffer from air-pocalypse at least we haven't recently fallen victim to "sand-ageddon" as British tabloids called it earlier this year when sand from the Sahara desert, 3,000 kilometers away, covered cars and people alike in Britain.

There were prodigious winds recently that all but blew me over, no easy task. Yet, remarkably, I couldn't detect a grain of sand. The reason that I am hopeful is that this result was no accident, but due to the hard work of governmental and scientific experts who reversed desertification of previously green areas and reclaimed them by planting trees and grasses, and using other more ingenious homegrown methods.

Remarkably, 2.6 million square kilometers, more than one-quarter of China's total land area, are deserts. It is scant wonder then that China is the world's leader in desertification. And it comes as no surprise that in 2002 China enacted the world's first law on controlling and preventing desertification. In fact, by 2020 the country plans to reclaim 200,000 square kilometers of desert.

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