China needs 300 years to win battle against desert

January 6th, 2011 - 11:43 am ICT by IANS  

Beijing, Jan 6 (IANS) Seeking to reclaim land swallowed by deserts, China has launched a massive “go green” campaign but says the country still needs 300 more years to win the battle against desertification.About 530,000 square km of desert areas in China can be turned back to green land, said Liu Tuo, director of the national bureau to combat desertification under the State Forestry Administration.

However, it will take about 300 years to achieve the goal at the current rate of 1,717 square km a year, Liu was quoted as saying by China Daily.

Desertification process in China has not completely disappeared, although the desertified land area has decreased by 12,454 square km in the past five years, said Zhu Lieke, deputy head of the administration.

China still has 2.6 million square km of desertified land, which accounts for about 27.3 percent of its total land area.

“China is still a country with the largest area of desertified land in the world. About 310,000 sq km are still susceptible to desertification,” said Zhu.

Zhu said overgrazing, inappropriate use of water resources coupled with scarce rainfall have resulted in the expansion of desertified land in northwestern Sichuan province.

Ecological pressure from the country’s huge population and economic development are major barriers in halting desertification, Liu said.

Liu said global climate change is another barrier in reversing desertification as more extreme weather, such as drought, leads to degradation of vegetation.

Thanks to comprehensive measures and consistent efforts, the ecology has greatly improved in key eco-rehabilitation areas, including Horqin grassland and Mu Us desert in Inner Mongolia autonomous region, Zhu said.

China is seeking to increase its forest coverage by 40 million hectares by 2020. The government will spend 220 billion yuan ($33 billion) in the next decade to protect the natural forests in China, the State Council said in December 2010.

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