China: shrinking degraded land and reduced poverty in desertified areas



China makes strides in combat against desertification


China has made great progress in the fight against desertification in the past few years, with shrinking degraded land and reduced poverty in desertified areas.

Land degradation in China has lessened in recent years, Zhang Jianlong, head of the State Forestry Administration, told Xinhua ahead of the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, which falls on June 17 each year.

The area of desertified land in the country shrank by an annual average of 1,980 square km in the 2010-2014 period, a sharper decline than 1,717 square km for the 2005-2009 period and 1,283 square km for 2000-2004.

That was a reversal from the years before 2000, when desertified land was increasing, he said.

One result of the change can be felt in the capital city Beijing, which used to be plagued by sandstorms but has seen much less frequent occurrences.

Only two to three sandstorms were seen each year for the past two years, compared with over 13 around the year 2000, according to official data released last June.

China wants to rehabilitate 10 million hectares of desertified land in the 2016-2020 period, turning more than half of the country’s reclaimable deserts into green land.

To achieve that goal, the country must increase forest coverage to 23 percent by 2020 from 21.7 percent at the end of 2015, though the rate is still below the world average level of around 30 percent.

One of the largest forest projects is the Three-North Shelterbelt Forest Program. Launched in 1978 and expected to be completed by 2050, it consists of afforestation in northwest, north and northeast China.

By 2015, the project has seen nearly 30 million hectares of forests planted and preserved, Zhang said.

Read the full article: ECNS.CN

Author: Willem Van Cotthem

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

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