Jim Yardley: A Crescent of Water Is Slowly Sinking Into the Desert
In this desert oasis where East once met West and that is home to one of the world’s greatest shrines to Buddhism, the water is disappearing. Crescent Lake has dropped more than 25 feet in the last three decades while the underground water table elsewhere in the area has fallen by as much as 35 feet.
An ancient city that once served as China’s gateway to the West, Dunhuang is now threatened by very modern demands. A dam built three decades ago to help local farming, combined with a doubling of the population, have overstressed a fragile desert hydrology that had been stable for thousands of years.