Chinese desert : Reclaiming cultivatable land (Google / China Daily)

Read at : Google Alerts – desertification

http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/cndy/2013-05/27/content_16534173.htm

Holding back the sands of time

By Cui Jia and Mao Weihua ( China Daily)

Desert dwellers are slowly reclaiming cultivatable land, as Cui Jia and Mao Weihua report from Hotan, Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region.

Hotan prefecture in the southwest of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region is famous for two things: jade and sand. The locals still try to pluck the precious stones from the dry bed of the Yurungkash River, also known as the White Jade River, but the rising value of jade means the place has almost been picked clean after repeated treasure hunts, so the chances of making new discoveries are slim. However, in this area bordering the Taklimakan, the world’s second-largest desert, the sand will never disappear.

Almost every one in Hotan lives close to the more than 300 oases, large and small, that are dotted around the southern edge of the Taklimakan. Those enclosed by the desert only account for 3.7 percent of Hotan’s total area. As a result, people have to cope with windborne sand for more than 260 days a year. On a bad day, they have to be prepared to seek cover from sandstorms, which can blacken the sky within minutes and without warning. In addition to the health problems posed by the storms, sand carried at high speed can erode buildings and strip the paintwork from vehicles.

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About Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.
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