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China's stony deserts fall to 12 mln hectares.

Beijing, June 14 (Xinhua-ANI): China's stony desert areas shrank to 12 million hectares by the end of 2011, down 7.4 percent from 2005, a senior forestry official said Thursday.

"Stony deserts have been shrinking at an annual rate of 1.27 percent over the past few years," Zhang Yongli, deputy director of the State Forestry Administration (SFA), said at a press conference.

"The spread of stony deserts has initially been brought under control, and the ecological environment in Karst regions has greatly improved," Zhang said.

Afforestation and vegetation protection, the adjustment of rural energy structure and the application of modern agricultural technologies contributed a lot to the ecological restoration in the stony desert regions, according to Zhang.

However, Zhang also warned that the country still faces severe challenges in fighting desertification, as stony deserts still cover 120,000 square km of land and destructive farming practices, excessive land reclamation and overgrazing, still exist in some poor rural regions.

"Frequent natural disasters such as droughts and freezing weather have also posed difficulties in combating desertification," Zhang said.

Currently, more than 50 million people live in the rocky regions, where desertification has resulted due to water shortages, soil erosions and persistent poverty.

"Stony desertification and poverty are like 'twin brothers,' so we combined the work to control stony desertification with the efforts to improve local people's livelihoods," said Liu Tuo, head of the Desertification Control Center under the SFA.

Farmers had been encouraged to grow cash crops on stony lands to improve vegetation and increase earnings. Their per capita incomes has recently grown by 12.5 percent annually, Liu said.

The country will intensify efforts to prevent the spread of stony deserts and continue to increase investment in environmental improvement, Liu said. (Xinhua-ANI)

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Publication:Asian News International
Date:Jun 14, 2012
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