Battling the sands in China

2007-11-08
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Nearly 30 percent of China's land mass is covered by desert, and the sands are continuously spreading. Video: AFP >> Watch the video

CHINA, DUNHUANG : Nearly 30 percent of China's land mass is covered by desert, and the sands are continuously spreading. Losing farm land to desertification directly affects the livelihood of 400 million Chinese, and is having a severe impact on the economy. This video report is from Heshui village, in the Gansu province of western China.

The Kumtag is China's sixth largest desert. At a rate of four meters per year, it is creeping closer and closer to the city of Dunhuang, an outpost on the ancient Silk Road. State media says 90 percent of the city has already surrendered to desertification.

Local officials say they are doing all they can to protect their people. "We recognize the importance of the environment," says Sun Yulong, mayor of Dunhuang, "For example, it is forbidden to dig wells and take water from the ground."

Since the 1950s, desert expansion has accelerated across China. Environmentalist says it is a near irreversible process. "It is hard to restore the original vegetation because there is very little water," says Chen Jiqun, from the organization 'Friends of Nature.' "We are worried what will happen" says a local farmer. "If there is no land to cultivate, we cannot live here anymore." Economic loss is estimated at $ 6.5 billion a year.

Video: AFP

Original reporting in Chinese

Blog: RFA Unplugged

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