China Sounds Warning on Threat of Spreading Deserts
Deserts, which cover a fifth of China, are spreading on the upper reaches of the Yellow River, on the Qinghai-Tibet plateau and parts of Inner Mongolia and Gansu, the forestry ministry said in a statement on its Web site (www.forestry.gov.cn).
"Experts say that the series of anti-desertification measures our country has taken has obtained obvious results, which have had an important effect on improving people's livelihood," it said.
"But at present the anti-desertification situation remains serious, and is still the main ecological problem which restricts our sustainable socio-economic development," the ministry added.
"Stepping up control efforts is of the utmost urgency."
The government held a meeting on Monday to look at ways to stop China's spreading deserts, the ministry said.
"Desertification is a global problem, a natural disaster which severely affects people's lives, and is the main factor restraining our country's modernisation efforts," it quoted Deputy Forestry Minister Zhu Lieke as saying.
"If there is no proper prevention, it will be very easy for new deserts to be created," the statement added.
Key to these effects were reining in overgrazing and overexploitation of land, the ministry said, though it did not outline any new anti-desertification steps.
As well as eating up valuable farm land, the expanding deserts have helped fuel vicious sandstorms that lash northern China every spring, and whose effects are felt in South Korea and Japan.
Beijing has pledged to hold a sandstorm-free Olympics in 2008 and has launched new campaigns to repair denuded land and plant trees in a bid to hold back the desert's advance.