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China's largest desert lake may vanish in 10 yrs

(Xinhua)

15:57, December 23, 2011

XI'AN - Hongjiannao, China's largest desert lake, is still shrinking as a result of climate change and human activities, and it could vanish in just a decade.

The lake, sandwiched between the Muus Desert in Shaanxi province and the Erdos Plateau in North China's Inner Mongolia autonomous region, has shrunk by over 40 percent in the past 15 years.

Its lake area measured 7,000 hectares in 1996, but has shrunk to 4,000 hectares, and its water level is declining by 60 centimeters annually, data from the lake's management committee showed.

"Unless adequate measures are taken, Hongjiannao may vanish in just 10 years," said Ren Leijie, director of the general office of the committee.

Experts fear that Hongjiannao may become another Lop Nur, which, located in Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, was the largest lake in northwestern China before it dried up in 1972 due to desertification and environmental degradation.

Dams have been built since 2006 on two of the seven rivers that drained into Hongjiannao to improve water conservation facilities in the upper stream, which has cut off water supplies to the lake, said Li Wenyi, an official with the management committee.

About 40 percent of lake's water came from the Yingpan River before a dam was built on the river five years ago.

Meanwhile, Hongjiannao has gradually lost the water that it used to get from underground streams and rivers as excessive coal mining around the lake has changed the way water flows underground.

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