Chinas Growing Desert

Discussion in 'China' started by Ray, Jan 3, 2014.

  1. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    Chinas Growing Desert[


    Overgrazing is stripping arable lands, creating the potential for ecological refugees
    /B]

    A new Chinese export has been spreading quietly across Asia and the United States: dust.

    Violent sandstorms from China’s expanding deserts have been battering numerous Chinese cities, and now their mustard-colored dust has begun reaching South Korea, Japan and the west coast of North America.

    “People dusting off their cars in California or Calgary often don’t realize the sand has come all the way from China,” says Lester Brown, president of the Earth Policy Institute (EPI) in Washington D.C., who was in Beijing recently. “There is a dustbowl developing in China that represents the largest conversion of productive land to desert of any place in the world … and it’s affecting the world.”

    China has always suffered from aridity, as about 20 percent of its landmass is comprised of deserts made famous in tales about the Silk Road that traversed many of them.

    But the situation is getting worse. Persistent drought, overgrazing, indiscriminate use of ground water and rampant logging are eroding the edges of China’s deserts, allowing them to merge and spread. Recent satellite imagery shows that the Badain Jaran desert in north-central China is pushing southward toward the nearby Tengger desert to form a single, larger desert, overlapping both northwestern Gansu province and neighboring Inner Mongolia.

    Expanding deserts swallow almost a million acres of land every year, China’s State Environmental Protection Administration says. Soon 40 percent of China could turn into scrubland, creating massive social, economic and ecological challenges, including the problem of millions of “ecological refugees.”

    “When I was a kid, the desert was five kilometers [three miles] away but now it’s right here,” says Li Liang, 19, gesturing to the sand now lining the periphery of his family’s cotton farm just outside Dunhuang in Gansu. “Every year there are sandstorms, and every time there is a sandstorm our cotton is destroyed and we have to replant it, which costs a lot.”

    ————————–

    Ironically, the Li family’s diminishing profits are rooted in China’s increasing prosperity. The leading cause of China’s desertification is the growing number of sheep and goats being reared in places such as Gansu for China’s increasingly prosperous 1.3 billion people who are eating more and more meat.

    China now has 400 million cattle, sheep, goats and yaks, up from 100 million in 1960. Most of these animals are owned by traditional herders who graze them on ecologically fragile hills and steppes, so the animals have uprooted and eaten up vast swathes of grassland. As the topsoil has loosened, strong winds have blown it away, creating massive sandstorms and turning the area into desert.

    According to official reports, about 4,000 villages across China have recently been swallowed by the encroaching desert and more than 200 million people are suffering from the effects of desertification.

    Significantly, it’s not just tiny hamlets like Li’s that are being threatened. The legendary Gobi desert in central China has expanded by about 25,000 square miles since 1994 and its sands are now within 100 miles of Beijing.

    The capital gets blasted by about half a million tons of sand every year, often reducing visibility to the point where even its soaring skyscrapers are barely visible, air traffic stops and people are forced to stay indoors.

    Curiously, while such sandstorms seriously impact human health by causing and exacerbating various skin, breathing and eye disorders, they can be quite good for the earth. Often, the minerals transported during sandstorms provide new nutrients to inland ecosystems and the seas, according to the Asian-Pacific Regional Aerosol Characterization Experiment, an international campaign focused on understanding how dust particles affect the chemistry of the atmosphere.

    The organization’s researchers say they also want to study how dust changes the quantity of solar energy our planet radiates back into space, something that will enhance our understanding of climate change.

    But that’s cold comfort for Yang Jian, director of the Development Planning Department in the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture, who is worried about how China’s desertification will impact food supplies.

    Yang says China needs up to 500 million tons of grain every year. While the country is currently self-sufficient in food, production is slipping. The biggest reason for the decline is that about a million acres of arable land have been lost to urban sprawl over the last decade, according to official reports. Though Yang’s ministry has reserved 255 million acres of land for agriculture, much of it is in areas affected by desertification.

    If the desert eats substantially into China’s arable land, Beijing will be forced to import grains. This would raise world food prices, a potentially life-threatening shift for the world’s 350 million poor who live on less than $1 a day, Yang says.

    ————————–

    With official reports also warning that China is losing about $7.7 billion a year because of desertification, the government is trying hard to battle the creeping sands.

    Farmer Li says local officials ordered his family to switch from growing cotton to planting trees in the hope that reforesting the desert’s periphery will help contain it. Many counties in Gansu have also restricted herders from grazing their animals on damaged grasslands, and cities such as Beijing are creating “shelter-belts” of grass and trees around themselves.

    China is even trying to water arid regions by seeding clouds with silver iodide, which creates “artificial” rain. The chemical, which is sprayed into clouds by plane or cannon shell, cools clouds so their moisture condenses and falls as rain.

    So far, the Chinese government has equipped about 35,000 farmers with antique anti-aircraft guns and trained them to fire shells loaded with silver iodide into passing clouds.

    But according to Gao Jixi, director of the Institute of Environmental Ecology in Beijing, which studies desertification, even the most innovative measures will not roll back the desert if China’s GDP-growth oriented policies continue to ignore environmental costs.

    “It is more important we respect nature’s rules by restoring the original ecological systems in those regions,” Gao says.

    But that seems far off: Chinese authoritarian leaders cannot afford to promote any policy that may slow its economy.

    “Chinese leaders have a legitimacy problem”, says Jing Huang, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington D.C. “Their only tools for staying in power are nationalism and economic growth.”

    Growth is particularly important in Gansu, Inner Mongolia and other poor western provinces such as Xinjiang and Tibet, which have substantial minority populations. Conscious of how disliked the Communist Party is in these areas, Beijing is trying to win over hearts and minds by delivering economic development.

    But the mega public works projects being built in these areas, such as the new 1,300-mile-long railway linking Beijing to Tibet, often take a massive environmental toll.

    In Xinjiang, where Muslim Uighurs have launched an armed insurgency to demand independence, Beijing’s attempts to increase irrigation are backfiring. The province’s Tarim River has dried up, and the large poplar groves around it that once served as a barrier between two deserts, the Taklamakan and the Kumtag deserts, are disappearing. As a result, these two parched swathes of sand are merging just like the Badain Jaran and Tengger deserts in Gansu.

    The new proximity of the desert to urban centers such as Dunhuang and Beijing has prompted some local entrepreneurs to create “sand parks” where city kids can ride camels, toboggan down dunes and drive SUVs. But charging people so that they can frolic in sand that is literally smothering Chinese villages–and even spreading across the Pacific Ocean–is emblematic of the benign disinterest that overlooks the long-term environmental costs of short-term profits.

    The EPI’s Brown says that China is the country that best exemplifies this global problem. Such unbalanced development, he warns, is threatening to spawn catastrophes that could destabilize the entire world.

    “Communism [in China and elsewhere] collapsed because it did not calculate the full economic costs of products,” he says. “Now capitalism will collapse if it does not calculate the full environmental costs of things.”

    Chinas Growing Desert - In These Times
     
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  3. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    At the Desert’s Edge’ Gives a Glimpse of China’s Massive Desertification Challenge

    In may not be surprising that China, home to so many other superlatives, also faces desertification on a grand scale. According to China’s State Forestry Administration, over 27 percent of the country now suffers from desertification – more than 1,000,000 square miles, or about one-third of the continental United States – impacting the lives of more than 400 million people.

    At the Desert’s Edge, a new short documentary from the Asia Society and filmmaker Jonah Kessel, explains these challenges and efforts to combat it in Kulun Qi, a dry area in northeastern Inner Mongolia.

    The film focuses on the perspectives of small, local units of families and farmers. “When my mother was young,” Ma Enqi, a shopkeeper in the film says, “the desert wasn’t so expansive. The land around here all used to be farmland when she was still in her 30s.” Though migration has been the “solution” for desertification in many parts of China, Ma and his family seem to be trapped on the land they have lived for decades. And they have witnessed the desert grows wider and wider.

    “You can’t escape it, whether you’re afraid or not,” Maona Mula, a local farmer, says with a bitter smile gazing at the land covered with sand, rocks, and wood chips. His livelihood comes from “some crops, some firewood,” cows, and the pigs behind him. “When you are poor, you can’t do anything else,” he says.

    Desertification is a perfect illustration of the water-food nexus increasingly challenging people in China and elsewhere around the world. Without water, farmers cannot grow crops. Yet over-exploitation of land, via overgrazing or overuse of fertilizer, for example, decreases the quality and accessibility of water and soil, making land more vulnerable to drying. Choke Point: China – a joint initiative between the Wilson Center’s China Environment Forum and Circle of Blue – highlights how the growing water footprint of coal power development constrains agriculture and exacerbates desertification. But the challenge does not stop at China’s doorstep; according to the UN, desertification and land degradation affects 168 countries and costs $490 billion a year.

    Where water is still reasonably accessible, as in the case of Kulun Qi, one way to combat desertification and drought is tree planting. Trees help hold moisture and prevent soil erosion. In the simple words of Xuan Yuquan, a local resident, “if you plant trees, the crops will survive. If there aren’t any trees, the crops will die.”

    At the Desert’s Edge highlights the efforts of Shanghai Roots and Shoots, part of the global Roots and Shoots NGO created by primatologist Jane Goodall. Since 2007, volunteers from the megacity of Shanghai have come to desolate Inner Mongolia to plant trees with local farmers. The organization asks farmers to monitor and maintain those trees, engages local students for environmental education, and employs a full-time forestry manager to evaluate and ensure tree growth. To date, they have planted more than 1.2 million trees and are on their way to their target of two million. And the results are visible, as testified by a forester and a longtime resident in the film.

    Apart from civil society’s efforts, the central government is also working on an environmental engineering program of unprecedented scale. The Three-North Shelter Forest Program, also known as the “Green Great Wall,” is a 2,800-mile network of forest belts covering all the major deserts and sandy lands in northwest China and over 40 percent of the country’s entire territory. The project is designed to serve as a windbreak to stop sandstorms, halt the expansion of desertification, and to restore land to a productive and sustainable state. To date, the project has re-planted and protected about 10,000 square miles of forest, achieving more than two-thirds of its goal of 14,500 square miles by 2050.

    Still, the gains made are fragile. Winter storms can destroy vulnerable new trees. In many places, groundwater availability could actually decrease as trees soak up more. And herders claim that protecting grasslands from overgrazing could also drive certain animal species to extinction.

    As we join together for 2013’s World Day to Combat Desertification, we need to realize that this is a long battle on a massive scale. It will take many trees and other much larger behavior changes in communities, businesses, and governments around the world to protect our future from drying up.

    ‘At the Desert’s Edge’ Gives a Glimpse of China’s Massive Desertification Challenge | New Security Beat
     
  4. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    Fighting desertification in China


    Beijing launched an ambitious plan a decade ago, but the desert continues to swallow up large tracts of green land.



    Beijing, China - Often accused of being an impediment to climate change mitigation because of its massive carbon emissions, China's government has recently appeared to brandish its environmental credentials in the fight against desertification.

    Vast tracts of China have been impacted by desertification, affecting about 400 million people in recent decades.

    The Gobi desert in central China gobbles up 3,600 square kilometres of grassland each year, creating powerful sandstorms, robbing farmers of food-producing land, and displacing people from their homes. China's desertification even affects neighbouring countries such as Japan, North Korea and South Korea.

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

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

    According to the government, China is restoring between 40,000 and 70,000 square kilometres of desertified land - an area larger than Switzerland - every year through planting new and rejevenating old forests.

    The province of Ningxia was the first in China to see a reversal in the volume of desert five years ago, Jia Xiaoxia, director of the National Bureau to Combat Desertification, told Al Jazeera.

    Some critics have questioned the project, however, saying planted trees will consume large amounts of groundwater.

    Other methods have bordered on the bizarre, including blowing up sand dunes, air-dropping "seed storms", and erecting massive fences to prevent animals from eating threatened vegetation.

    Luc Gnacadja, executive secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, told Al Jazeera that China's efforts provide three important lessons.

    "First, that the restoration of even a severely degraded world is possible. Second, that the role of government - creating the right policy incentives - is indispensable. Third, is that we must think outside our traditional boxes regarding land stewardship - how we value, manage and invest in it," Gnacadja said.

    Human cost

    While the mitigation efforts have shown some success, a quarter of China's total territory - 2.6 million square kilometers - remains desertified.

    As the sand and its associated storms approach, many Chinese people are forced leave their home regions. Ma - who asked to be identified by his surname only - is a farmer who moved from the north to Yinchuan in Ningxia province.

    "In my hometown it was impossible to grow any vegetable or any fruit because of the increase in the number of annual sandstorms," said Ma. "Here conditions are much better, and I don't have to deal with such hard life conditions."

    About 178,000 people have been relocated from grasslands and forests near Beijing and Tianjin as part of regional authorities' anti-desertification efforts, and more than 67,000 square kilometres of forest has been planted in the region over the past 12 years, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency.

    In Baijitan, a project headed by Wang Youde - nicknamed China's "Warrior of the Sands" - combats sandstorms and prevents the Moawusu desert from expanding south and westward. Sandstorms there have destroyed villages for the past 30 years.

    "It is urgent to strengthen the forest building, to promote the combat of desertification, and to improve the environment," Wang said.

    For him it is a "long term task with difficulties" in Ningxia province. The 58-year-old arrived in Ningxia 27 years ago, when Beijing's budget to fight desertification allowed for only 400 workers. His solution was to start businesses and use the profits to beat back the sands.

    Wang and his team alone have managed to boost the forested area from 160 square kilometres to 930 square kilometres since their efforts began.

    "I think we have realised our goal," he said. "We made the place lively and better and we made the desert green. We have also made ourselves a better life."

    China's government has also recognised his efforts. Four years ago, Wang was invited to join the torch relay for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. "To millions of desert fighters like me, it is the recognition of our career combating desertification," he said.

    Much more to do

    China's Minister of Forestry Zhao Shucong said in June that desertification posed "the greatest challenge of our generation".

    More than 400 million people are struggling to cope with water shortages, unproductive land and the breakdown of ecological systems caused by rising temperatures, overgrazing and poor land management, said Zhao.

    He highlighted the need for programmes that also better the livelihoods of impoverished rural communities while combating desertification.

    "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 UN's Gnacadja noted 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."

    He said China is an emample of "huge untapped potential" for the 167 other countries suffering the effects of desertifcation 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," said Gnacadja.

    Fighting desertification in China - Features - Al Jazeera English
     
  5. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    China's desertification is not a problem for China alone.

    It is a menace to the world.

    If arable land is desertified, then who will feed the bludgeoning population of China?

    They will seek Lebensraum just like Hitler and China is a dictatorial State.

    Already they are out to capture territory that they claim as their own on fudged and contrived maps.

    What will happen when they will not care even to show some contrived 'proof' that are anyway in their figment of fertile imagination.

    China has to curb their madness!
     
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  6. shiphone

    shiphone Senior Member Senior Member

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    LOL...you really have nothing to bad-mouth China , do you...LOL...what a hopeless pathetic loser...`

    actually the tendency is opposite.....three main reasons...

    1. the powerful Government with long term planning and strategy and Organized society...
    2. the Global Warming bring more water to the north and north west part in China...
    3. the investment of Nongovernmental Capital and hardworking people

    a report in 2011...

    http://www.forestry.gov.cn/uploadfile/main/2011-1/file/2011-1-5-59315b03587b4d7793d5d9c3aae7ca86.pdf
     
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  7. Sridhar

    Sridhar House keeper Moderator

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  8. Razor

    Razor CIDs from Tamilnadu Senior Member

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    Russian Far-East and Siberia.
    Far-Eastern Federal District of Russia has a population of around 6 million (population decreasing) and an area of 6.2 million sq.km. For comparison, on the other side of the border, Chinese Manchuria region (Heilongjiang, Jilin, Liaoning and parts of so called Inner Mongolia) has a population of about 110 million and an area of less than 1 million sq.km.
    Chinese people also claim that parts of Siberia are Chinese territory.
    Chinese strategy will be: 1.) to initially send in people into Russian Far-East and Siberia for economic activities (this is already underway), 2.) then take control of the economy of the region and 3.) then when China starts achieving parity with Russia military-wise, start laying claims.

    If Russia isn't careful this is going to happen. I'm not talking about 10 or 20 years. Chinese plans are long term oriented and they are extremely patient, a very good quality. Russian leaders are aware of this:
    "Unless we make a serious effort, the Russians in the border regions will have to speak Chinese, Japanese and Korean in a few decades." Vladimir Putin.
    "Chinese would soon be crossing the border in small groups of five million." Dmitry Rogozin
     
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2014
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  9. Razor

    Razor CIDs from Tamilnadu Senior Member

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    Explain more about the point #2 above, with sources in English language.
     
  10. bennedose

    bennedose Senior Member Senior Member

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    The famines that occurred during Mao's cultural revolution did not bother Mao and I am sure the Chicoms don't care. With 1.3 billon people - who will miss 500 million Chinese if they die of starvation? Mao went to the extent of saying that he would not mind if 300 million Chinese died in a nuclear war. If Chinese die of starvation then there will be fewer Chinese who are demanding Hukou benefits and more money, water and food for the wealthy.
     
  11. Menhit

    Menhit Regular Member

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    Environmental problem is a concern for every developing country including both India and China because of rapid industrialization and dumping of foreign Electronic wastes in these countries. The way forests and animals are going extinct from almost every part of the globe is a very serious issue that needs immediate attention.
     
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