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New Shanxi forest fends off sandstorms

(Xinhua)

10:24, May 04, 2012

TAIYUAN, May 4 (Xinhua) -- North China's Shanxi province has tamed about 1 million hectares of desert in the past 12 years to help reduce and fend off sandstorms hitting Beijing and its neighboring regions, according to local authorities.

The desert in northern Shanxi is one of the three major source of sandstorms that can affect Beijing and Tianjin.

Work since 2000 has formed a forest shelter belt running 230 km east to west, reducing risks of desert encroachment and also blocking sandstorms from further north, said Zhang Yunlong, chief planner of the Shanxi provincial forestry department.

The desertification, which was caused by poor farming and overgrazing practices, has been significantly alleviated, according to Zhang.

"A decade on, we have created a miracle in planting trees on a loess plateau area where drought and gusts severely hinder growth," said Fu Cunxin, head of the county publicity department in Youyu.

Trees on the hard-grown silty loess require replanting at least three times before they can survive, Fu explained.

"Though the afforestation program has made great achievements, there is still a long way to go," warned Zhang, adding that another 1.1 million hectares of desert is to be tamed in the second phase of the project.

Shanxi is among five provincial-level administrative regions in north China, also including Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei and Inner Mongolia, that have made joint efforts in reducing and blocking sandstorms.

China is one of world's major victims of desertification, with the phenomenon affecting more than 27 percent of the total land area and threatening the livelihoods of 400 million people.

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