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Mu Us Desert is disappearing from Shaanxi Province

Author  :  WANG GANG, ZHAO BO     Source  :    Shaanxi Daily     2020-05-13

On April 22, Shi Guangyin, a man in his 60s, was busy working in Langwo Sandyland in Dingbian County, Shaanxi Province, just as he had been doing for most of his life—planting trees and shrubs to tackle desertification. Shi is honored as a “national desertification control hero” because of his contributions to the battle against desertification. He has witnessed how the desert has been transforming into oases in the north of Shaanxi Province. Today, his dreams have finally come true. News from Shaanxi Forestry Administration said that 93.24 percent of the land undergoing desertification in Yulin has become green, which means that the Mu Us Desert is disappearing from Shaanxi Province.

“China’s campaigns against desertification started from Yulin. Yulin has valuable experience to share with China and even with the international community on curbing the destructive process of desertification,” said Zhang Jianlong, director of National Forestry and Grassland Administration.

The Mu Us Desert, also known as the Ordos Sandyland or Mu Us Sandyland, is one of China's four major deserts. It covers an area of 42,200 square kilometers, while half of its area is in Yulin. The Mu Us Desert is also called an “artificial desert,” as it used to be a fertile pasture in ancient times. From the Tang to the Qing dynasties, it became sandy due to improper land management practices.

In the early years of the People's Republic of China, ecological degradation made life in Yulin increasingly harsh. People suffered from sandstorms, the losses of their farmland and were forced to leave after their houses that were gradually buried under sands.

Over the years, the Chinese government has been making efforts to push for afforestation, including the projects of Three-North Shelter Forest Program (the key forest shelter belts in north, northeast, and northwest China), natural forest conservation and restoring forest on farmland. Over time, many people have chosen Yulin for afforestation. Niu Yuqin, another “national desertification control hero,” has reversed the desertification process in 7,333 hectares over a period spanning over 30 years, turning arid land into “artificial oases.” Under the command of 14 company commanders, the desertification control company composed of militiawomen in Bulang River has flattened over 800 dunes and established 35 forest shelterbelts. Another activist, Shi Guangyin, set up China’s first desert controlling joint-stock company in partnership with other farmers…

After seven decades of effort, Yulin has reversed desertification at an annual rate of 1.62 percent in sandyland, and the Mu Us Desert has been constantly shrinking; its green area coverage rate rises from 0.9 percent to over 34.8 percent, extending the green area 400 kilometers northward in Shaanxi Province.

Desertification control also greatly benefits the local economy. Greenhouse farming and tourism begin to flourish in the areas that were often attacked by sandstorms in the past. There are more than 150 institutions engaging in sand business, with an annual output value at 480 million yuan and over 100 thousand employees.

“The Mu Us Desert doesn’t truly vanish from the natural environment; what we have achieved is the stabilization of the sand dunes, which is a way of human intervention. To fundamentally reverse the process of ecological degradation in the desert, we still need to promote ecological restoration to return the natural ecosystems in this region to a state that is closely related to one unaltered by human activities,” said Dang Shuangren, director of Shaanxi Forestry Administration.


The article was edited and translated from Shaanxi Daily.


(Edited and translated by Ren Guanhong)

Editor: Yu Hui

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