China’s Disappearing Land Puts Food Supplies at Risk

Soil erosion has been costing economic losses in China according to a report by China’s bio-environment security research team. From NewScientist:

Over a third of China’s land is being scoured by erosion that is putting its crops and water supplies at risk, a three-year nationwide survey finds.

Soil is being washed and blown away not only in remote rural areas, but near mines, factories and even in cities, according to the country’s official Xinhua news agency. The agency is citing a report compiled by China’s bio-environment security research team – the largest on soil conservation since the communist party took control of China in 1949.

The team found that since 2000, erosion has cost China 200 billion yuan ($29 billion) in economic losses. Each year some 4.5 billion tonnes of soil are lost, threatening the country’s ability to feed itself. If erosion continues at this rate, harvests in China’s north-eastern breadbasket could fall by 40% in 50 years.

Soil erosion leads to sediment buildup, which affects China’s crops. From Guardian:

Sediments discharge into the Bo Hai Bay and western Yellow Sea colouring the surface waters caramel in this satellite view of China. Light brown hues show bare land, darker browns areas of vegetation. Photograph: Modis/Nasa

Sediments discharge into the Bo Hai Bay and western Yellow Sea colouring the surface waters caramel in this satellite view of China. Light brown hues show bare land, darker browns areas of vegetation. Photograph: Modis/Nasa

Almost 100 million people in south-west China will lose the land they live on within 35 years if soil erosion continues at its current rate, a nationwide survey has found.

Crops and water supplies are suffering serious damage as earth is washed and blown away across a third of the country, according to the largest-scale study for 60 years.

Harvests in the north-east, known as China’s breadbasket, will fall 40% within half a century on current trends, even as the 1.3 billion population continues to grow.

To understand the structure of China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection, follow this link.

Another article on soil erosion in CDT can be found here.

November 24, 2008 1:21 PM
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Categories: Economy, Environment