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China struggles to prevent desertification from encroaching on valuable land

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
December 10th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

While the nation of China makes bold strides in transforming untapped land into bustling areas of commerce, the threat of desertification - where large strips of land became fallow and unable to sustain vegetation, have become "the greatest challenge of our generation," according to China's Minister of Forestry Zhao Shucong.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - More than 400 million people in China are currently struggling with water shortages, unproductive land and the breakdown of ecological systems caused by rising temperatures, overgrazing and poor land management, Zhao says. He also highlighted the need for relevant programs for China's rural poor.

"It is no longer sufficient to provide training and technical guidance that does not meet the basic needs of the poor," Zhao said. "Instead, we must understand that many of the causes of desertification are brought about by economic hardship . and the need to make ends meet."

The United Nation's Luc Gnacadja, the executive secretary of the U.N. Convention to Combat Desertification praised the Chinese government's efforts to support poor farmers, and its effectiveness in curbing desertification.

"By assisting farmers to erect tree shelter-belts, the rural poor have been able to farm in areas where commercial food production was not viable. These innovations have enabled China to address many challenges at once, and are, at least, part of the reason China has lifted so many people out of poverty and hunger."

China, he says is an example of "huge untapped potential" for the 167 other countries suffering the effects of desertification to "make land restoration a viable business.

"It is fair to say that China has the right vision, the political will and is moving in the right direction. This is how you win a fight," Gnacadja said. 

China has often been seen as a "global bad guy" when it comes to climate change. The Asian giant is responsible for massive carbon emissions. Desertification has affected about 400 million Chinese people in recent decades.

The Gobi desert in central China in particular gobbles up 3,600 square kilometers of grassland annually. Powerful sandstorms are rife in the area, and farmers are robbed of their livelihood. China's desertification even affects neighboring countries such as Japan, North Korea and South Korea.

There is hope -- innovative methods to halt arable land from being degraded and to rejuvenate desert have been effective in decreasing desertification, State Forestry Administration statistics show. 

The "Green Wall of China," the largest ecological project ever undertaken by authorities was launched in 1978, aims to increase human-made tree cover from five per cent to 15 percent of the country's vast landmass. These forests are envisioned to stretch across four million square kilometer of the country's north by the year 2050.

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