China continues anti-desertification efforts with remarkable results
Before and after images demonstrate the progress made in China's desertification control in recent years. The normalized difference vegetation index in the bottom lefthand corner of each image shows the contrast of vegetation conditions of Kubuqi Desert in China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in 2000 (top) and 2019 (bottom). [Photo courtesy of China's National Forestry and Grassland Administration]
"China has achieved notable results in curbing desertification and preventing sandstorms; efforts that have been praised internationally," Yang Wenbin, chief expert of Desertification Research Institute of Chinese Academy of Forestry, told China.org.cn in a recent interview.
According to statistics, China has 2.61 million square kilometers of desert, meaning more than a quarter of the country's land is either degraded or lost to sand. However, thanks to decades-long efforts to combat desertification, China has achieved substantial progress in sand control and ecological protection.
Results of the fifth National Monitoring of Desertification and Sandification showed that land degradation is occurring at an average of 2,424 square kilometers annually, 1.5 times the size of London, compared to an expansion of 10,400 square kilometers per year at the end of the last century.
Yang Wenbin attributed China's achievement in desert control to several factors. "First of all, the Chinese government has attached great importance to reducing desertification through afforestation and has poured a great deal of cash, labor, and resources into them. Secondly, China has advanced other anti-desertification techniques, including paving straw checkerboard sand barriers and aerial seeding."
"In addition, several nationwide sand control and vegetation restoration campaigns were launched, such as the Three-North Shelter Forest Program that began in 1978, the Natural Forest Protection Program in 1998, and the Conversion of Cropland to Forest and Grassland Program in 1999."
"Stalin's plan for the transformation of nature in the Soviet Union and the Great Plains Shelterbelt Project in the United States failed after not delivering suitably positive results, while China's afforestation drive continues to this day. For example, over 7.88 million hectares of windbreak trees have so far been planted under China's Three-North Shelter Forest Program over the past four decades," Yang noted.
Sun Guoji, director of the Department of Combating Desertification with the National Forestry and Grassland Administration, said that China's next step in its anti-desertification efforts will be to proceed with major afforestation campaigns to consolidate gains and fulfill its obligations under the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification.