Soil erosion is becoming a major problem in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region as excessive herding and farming have outpaced the government's conservation efforts.
A recent national remote-sensing survey showed 1.03 million sq km of land in Xinjiang were now suffering from soil erosion.
Xinjiang is blamed for nearly 30 percent of China's total acreage of soil erosion, the regional water resources administration said.
"The region has a vulnerable ecology. Besides natural factors, human activities are largely to blame for the deteriorating soil erosion," an official in charge of soil conservation said.
He pointed to excessive herding on pastureland and farming along the Tarim River, the largest inland river in the southern part of Xinjiang.
"Irrational human activities have far outpaced the government's soil conservation efforts," the official, who asked not to be named, said.
As a result, desertification is affecting 80 of Xinjiang's 90 counties and cities and nearly two-thirds of its territory. At least 12 million people are suffering the consequences, ranging from drinking water shortages to cropland infertility.
The regional water resources administration said sand sediments have taken up a third of the total storage capacity of local reservoirs and at least one-third of its arable land has become salinized.
Meanwhile, deserts are growing by at least 100 sq km annually in Xinjiang, it said.
Xinjiang has conducted three remote-sensing surveys and set up a monitoring network to track its soil erosion.
By diverting nearly 2.3 billion cu m of water to save the endangered vegetation along the lower reaches of the Tarim River, Xinjiang has improved the river ecology over the past six years.
At the end of 2005, the region had curbed soil erosion on more than 7,400 sq km of land.
Source: China Daily/Xinhua