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China Focus: China progresses on environmental protection in plateau region

English.news.cn   2015-03-12 15:28:41

XINING, March 12 (Xinhua) -- For years, herdsman Gonpogya has watched helplessly as desert sands have slowly crept toward his grazing pastures.

His land lies next to Qinghai Lake, the country's largest saltwater lake in the northwestern Qinghai Province, which was reduced to a historical low in 2005 after shrinking to 4,237 square kilometers due to desertification.

To stop the spreading sands, a government conservation program has spent the last 10 years covering 4,000 hectares of transformed desert land with buckthorn, spruce and scots pines, successfully easing Gonpogya's fears for the time being.

Thanks to their efforts, Qinghai Lake has bounced back. In 2012, it grew to a historical maximum, reaching 4,345 square kilometers.

This is just one small success story in the fight against desertification on the Qinghai-Tibet plateau, an area known as the roof of the world.

There is currently 21.62 million hectares of desert land in Tibet, accounting for 18 percent of the total land area, which is 65,700 hectares less than in 2004, said Lei Guilong, head of the regional forestry department.

Sanjiangyuan region, known as "China's water tower" because it houses the source of the Yangtze, Yellow and Lancang rivers, is the top priority for these efforts. At an average altitude of 4,000 meters, the Sanjiangyuan region is a paradise for herders and wildlife, such as the Tibetan antelope.

Global warming and human activity since the end of last century have led to deterioration of the natural environment, shrinking wetlands, decreasing water levels in lakes and water flow in the headwaters, as well as increasing desertification.

In this year's government work report, Premier Li Keqiang said forests, grasslands, rivers and wetlands are ecological riches and gifts of nature. He said they will continue to preserve the source of the Yangtze, Yellow and Lancang rivers.

Hoping to repair the fragile ecological system, China established the Sanjiangyuan Nature Reserve in 2000. Five years later, a 7.6 billion yuan ecological conservation project was launched in the region. Last January, a second-phase conservation project (2014-2020) for Sanjiangyuan began with an investment of 16 billion yuan.

In 2015 alone, the region will see at least 800 million yuan (130 million U.S. dollars) spent on programs such as afforestation, prevention and control of forest pests, grassland degradation management and building a geographic information system, said Li Xiaonan, head of the Qinghai provincial Sanjiangyuan ecological protection and construction office.

Thanks to the efforts, the forest coverage rate in Sanjiangyuan increased from 3.2 percent in 2004 to 4.8 percent in 2012, and is expected to reach 5.5 percent by 2020.

"There have been more and more cormorants, bar-headed goose and blue sheep showing up in the grassland in recent year and it recalled my good old days when I was young," said Sangpalha, a herdsman living by the Gyaring Lake and Ngoring Lake in Madoi County of Qinghai, the source of Yellow River, China's second longest river.

By 2020, 12.85 million hectares of grazing land will be turned into grassland and 200,000 hectares of desert land will be properly dealt with, said Li.

Water and soil erosion in the region will also be contained as 200,000hectares of wetland will be kept under protection, he said.

Editor: Xiang Bo
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