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China witnesses miracle of turning Mu Us Desert into oasis (4)

(People's Daily Online)    17:53, August 14, 2020
China witnesses miracle of turning Mu Us Desert into oasis
Green land continues to grow in the Mu Us Desert. (Photo courtesy of the Baijitan Nature Reserve)

China has witnessed the miracle of turning the Mu Us Desert, one of the country’s four major deserts, into green land.

The desert lies in parts of north China’s Inner Mongolia, and northwest China’s Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region and Shaanxi province. Seventy years ago, people living near the desert suffered from sand storms.

Jirgaltu’s family lives in the hinterland of the desert in Inner Mongolia. On a day 30 years ago when his mother traveled to find him at his work, crying for help as their doors at home had been buried by sand the previous night due to strong wind, he was shocked. His parents had to climb out of a window and remove the sand with dustpans.

Jirgaltu recalled that he often got lost on his way to school when he was young. Once it took him four days to purchase grain from the township due to the shifting sand dunes.

The family was scared by that night’s sand storm, so Jirgaltu and his wife decided to grow salix mongolica, a deciduous shrub. Now in the area that could once only support about a dozen sheep, Jirgaltu raises over 100 sheep and about 40 cows in the grassland where planted trees stretch out as far as one can see.

Jirgaltu is not the only one who has devoted himself to taming sand and planting trees. Since the 1950s, several state forestry farms and sand control stations have been established in Shaanxi, Inner Mongolia and Ningxia to prevent and control desertification.

In 1985, Wang Youde served as the first deputy director of the Baijintan Wind Prevention and Sand Fixation Forest Farm in Lingwu city, Ningxia. In order to tame the sand, Wang had to increase his employees’ income. The farm built a brick factory, a prefabricated factory and afforestation service centers in the course of implementing the afforestation project.

As a result, the employees earned much more as they worked to turn the sandy land into an oasis. According to statistics, three generations of local people have turned about 42,000 hectares of sandy land into green land and tamed about 66,666 hectares of shifting sand, bringing the forest coverage rate to 41 percent.

Their efforts are effectively preventing the desert from moving southward and westward, making it a model of sand control in the Three-North Shelterbelt Forest Program, which consists of forestation measures in northwest, north and northeast China.

In Shaanxi’s Yulin, fruit bases that have been built on the desert and forestry industry based on red dates have become an important driver of economic growth. It is also the largest sheep-raising city in non-pastoral areas in China.

The annual value of ecosystem services in the Mu Us Desert increased to about 195.1 billion yuan (about $28 billion) in 2015 from 89.4 billion yuan (roughly $12.8 billion) in 1990, according to a national key research report released last year, predicting that the figure will exceed 200 billion yuan in 2020 and 2025. 


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(Web editor: Bianji, Hongyu)

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