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YICHUAN, September 17, Chinadaily -- Yinchuan, capital of the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region in northwestern China, is paying greater attention to environmental protection in response to the central government's call to maintain sustainable development.
Officials said the city had made significant efforts to curb desertification, increase reforestation and improve wetland protection over the past few years.

The 81,800-hectare Baijitan National Nature Reserve in Lingwu county in Yinchuan is on the edge of the Maowusu Desert, which covers an area of more than 40,000 square kilometers. The gradually expanding desert has been a critical problem constraining regional development since the 1950s.

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Crop pictures are seen in Helan county, Yinchuan. [Photo provided to China Daily]

The Baijitan Forest Farm, established in 1953, is aimed at stopping the Maowusu Desert from further expanding. Since then, three generations of people living on the farm have been involved in the battle against desertification.

Statistics from the Ningxia authorities show that some 42,000 hectares of forests have been cultivated over the past 60 years, controlling more than 60,000 hectares of sand. Currently, the forest coverage of the reserve has reached 40.6 percent.

A desertification control area stretching 48 km in length and 38 km in width has been developed and has effectively stopped Maowusu Desert's expansion, according to the local government. Some desert land has been reclaimed.

The forest farm has long been committed to curbing poverty while tackling desertification. Orchards and live stock breeding have been established so staff members can earn money.

Yinchuan has spared no effort in strengthening its wetland protection and restoration over the last few years. Statistics from the city authority show that a total of 3.45 billion yuan ($503.32 million) has been invested in wetland-related projects since 2009.
Currently, Yinchuan has 53,100 hectares of wetland and is home to nearly 200 natural lakes.

Yinchuan has received approval from the central and Ningxia Hui autonomous regional governments to establish five national wetland parks and six autonomous region-level wetland parks.

Laws have been promulgated by the local legislative body, aiming to better protect its precious wetland resources.

The city has long been one of the important stopover sites and habitats for birds migrating from western China and other East Asia countries to Australia. There are 239 types of wild birds living in the wetlands in Yinchuan. The Mingcui Lake National Wetland Park won the award of China's Best Wetland in Ecological Conservation in 2011. The award was established by Wetland International and China Economic Weekly.

Greenery development, part of the city environment upgrade plan, is also a key task of the Yinchuan government. Yinchuan plans to develop a 5,160-hectare and 8,913-hectare reforestation area in 2018 and 2019 respectively.

By 2020, the city will have added a total of 20,000 hectares of forested area to its landscape, and by that time an estimated 43 percent of Yinchuan's territory will be forested. The forest coverage rate of the city will be 16.5 percent in 2020.

Increasing the amount of forested area and wetland and the better control over desertification has supported Yinchuan's push to develop into a popular tourism destination in China over the past few years.

The concept of all-for-one tourism - moving beyond traditional sightseeing to an integrated, joined up approach of wide-ranging activities - has been promoted.

Yinchuan has been identified as the core area and a model city for Ningxia to develop all-for-one tourism. The local authority has decided to pay closer attention to promoting tourism industry clusters, developing financial support tools and upgrading its promotion model to support the overall development of the city.

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