GANSU, October 22, 2012 – Gansu is among the provinces with the widest and severest land desertification in China. By the end of 2009, Gansu reported 192,100 km of desertified land, which represented 45.12% of the province’s total land area and was distributed in 37 counties (county-level cities and districts) under ten cities or prefectures of the province.

Sandified land covered 119,200 km, accounting for 28.0% of the province’s total land area and distributed in 24 counties (county-level cities and districts) under eight cities or prefectures of the province. Guided by the Scientific Outlook on Development, Gansu has always made desertification prevention and control a major strategic task, accelerating construction of windbreak and sand fixation forests, stepping up efforts to develop the sand industry, popularizing applicable technologies to prevent and control sandification and strengthening vegetation protection. This produces notable results as shown in the following seven aspects:

First, the momentum of desertification and sandification has been initially contained on the whole, with the areas of desertification and sandification constantly reduced. Results of the fourth national desertification and sandification monitoring show that in 2009, Gansu’s desertified and sandified areas reduced by 1,349 sq km and 1,121 sq km from 2004, or 270 sq km and 224 sq km annually on average. During the five years, extreme desertified land decreased by 2,884.64 sq km, severe desertified land decreased by 1,138.44 sq km and extreme sandified land decreased by 5,140.67 sq km. Vegetation further improved, with the average coverage on sandified land increasing by 2.31% from 14.56% in 2004 to 16.87% in 2009. By far, measures have taken to treat nearly five million hectares of sandified land in the province, accounting for 40% of the total sandified land. The sandified areas have seen notable improvements in ecological environment, with the ecological shelter forest system along the edges of Tengger Desert further improved and the expansion of sandified land in Minqin and Dunhuang effectively checked.

Second, the vegetation and ecological system in key sandified areas have been effectively protected and restored, with seven State-level natural reserves established, including Qilian Mountain, Minqin Liangucheng, Dunhuang Xihu, Yanchiwan, Annanba Wild Camel Reserve, Anxi extreme dry desert and Zhangye Heihe wetland. Following release of the Notice of Gansu Department of Forestry on Closing Hillsides to Ban Grazing in Key Areas, all the cities (counties) in the sandified areas have taken various measures and intensified efforts in closing hillsides to ban grazing. This has effectively protected the vegetation in the sandified areas. Local governments in the sandified areas have also cracked down on all the illegal behaviors that cause damage to the vegetation in the sand, consolidating the achievements of sandification prevention and control.

Third, the technologies to control sandification have been popularized. Researches on the technologies to build forests in dry areas have been strengthened, construction of demonstration areas has been advanced, and talent training at multiple layers and in diverse forms has been carried out, making sandification control more scientific based. Superior local tree species have been widely applied, and drought resistance & forest construction technologies, such as deep planting and water-efficient irrigation, have been popularized, effectively improving the quality of sandification prevention and control projects. Vigorous efforts have also been made to carry out ecological monitoring, develop agents to accelerate plant growth and introduce germplasm resources and new materials to fix sand. Thirteen training classes for popularization of sand prevention technologies have been held in succession, expanding the room for the exchanges and cooperation on sandification prevention and control between Gansu and the other parts of the world.

Fourth, the sand industry has been growing. To increase vegetation on the sandified areas and increase income for farmers, local governments have combined sandification control with modern agriculture, successively granting more than RMB300 million of loans with discount interests to support researches on the sand industry. As a result, nearly 400 projects and a number of leading enterprises in forestry & fruit production, animal husbandry, vegetables, cotton and beer raw materials have been developed. In the sandified areas of Gansu Province, there are 2.33 million mu of economic forests and 1.2 million mu of forests that bear fruits. The total output is 515,000 tons, the sales volume 424,300 tons and the output value RMB920 million; There are 77 flower enterprises and 20 flower markets, with the annual output value as RMB89 million; The tourist resorts in the sandified areas, such as special parks and sand industrial parks, receive 562,000 persons and register nearly RMB10 million of tourism income every year.

Fifth, the emergency response to sandstorms has been significantly improved. Gansu has established and improved the sandstorm-related emergency response organization and information monitoring system, set up the emergency commanding office for severe sandstorms, and arranged three sandstorm monitoring stations respectively in Minqin, Zhangye and the provincial bureau of ecological administration to monitor information related to sandstorms and improve early warning. Meanwhile, Gansu also set up the sandstorm emergency duty system, which offers 24-hour monitoring during the early warning period. That ensures the transfer of sandstorm information, helps effective control of severe sandstorms, minimizes loss caused by sandstorms and protects the life and property safety of the people.

Sixth, the responsibility to control sandification has been fulfilled step by step. Local governments at various levels in the sandified areas have implemented the responsibility system in which the organizations concerned shall treat the sandified land along railways, roads, rivers and canals or near towns, villages, plants and reservoirs. In particular, Jiuquan Iron & Steel (Group) Co., Ltd. has input RMB400 million in constructing a 3,333.3-hectare grape base, and annually spends RMB5 million or more in plant afforestation, resulting in a green area of 600 hectares on a cumulative basis; Yumen Petroleum Administration successively built farms in Huahai and Chijin, developing 4,000 hectares of land and more than 100 forest belts that cover 476.98 hectares. It also supports the local government in afforestation in the old city area of Yumen.

Seventh, there has been a fundamental change in the idea of controlling sandification among the public. Guided by the principle of “those who input benefit from the gains” and the policies that allow project inheritance, transfer, auction, leasing, joint stock partnership, join cooperation and contracting, sandification control efforts have been increasingly from the whole society rather than the industry alone. This greatly advances the development of sandification prevention and control.

Here are the five major practices during the work:

i) Great attention from governments. In 2007, the provincial government held a meeting on sandification prevention and control, deploying the work in an all-round way and defining corresponding objectives and responsibilities. Local governments at various levels in the sandified areas thus put sandification control high on the agenda, intensifying organization, increasing input and mobilizing all the industries and people to join the action. This effectively advances the work related to sandification control.

ii) Boost from policies. The provincial people’s congress successively released the Regulations of Gansu Province on Grassland, the Regulations of Gansu Province on Managing the Water Resources in Shiyang River Basin and some other local regulations, and the provincial governments enacted documents including the Opinions on Further Strengthening the Work Related to Sandification Prevention and Control and the Guiding Opinions on Reasonably Allocating Ecological Water and Strengthening Construction of Ecological Forestry, making sandification control increasingly based on laws. The provincial department of forestry developed the Opinions on Accelerating Province-wide Non-Public Forestry Economy, which greatly promotes development of non-public forestry in the sandified areas and increases the vitality of sandification control projects.

iii) Highlight of key aspects. Sandification control has been carried out in accordance with the requirements specified in the Plan of Gansu Province on Sandification Prevention and Control (2006-2010). Key projects, such as the sandification control and ecological restoration in the Shiyang River basin, reasonable use and ecological protection of the water resources in Dunhuang and the protection of the ecological areas as key supplemental sources of the Yellow River, have been implemented, which effectively curbs the further deterioration in the ecological environment of key areas and paves the way for sandification control in an all-round way.

iv) Fiscal support. This is fundamental to the advance of sandification prevention and control. While trying to win investment from the State, the municipal (county) governments in the sandified areas annually allocate special funds for sandification control from local fiscal budgets and gradually put in place a stable mechanism for input of funds for sandification control. To beef up treatment of the ecological environment in Shiyang River basin, particularly Minqin County, the provincial government has arranged more than RMB15 million of funds in its annual fiscal budget for the sandification control in Minqin County and the sandified areas west of the Yellow River.

v) Extensive publicity. Making full use of the Tree-Planting Day, the World Day to Combat Desertification and some other occasions, the municipal (county/district) governments in the sandified areas have carried out publicity activities via TV, radio and newspaper and put up posters in public places. Special columns for sandification control have been launched on the portal websites of Gansu forestry administration and Gansu Combating Desertification Foundation, effectively expanding the room for publicity, improving the public awareness and creating sound atmosphere for the advance of sandification control.