Gao Hongbin, vice minister of agriculture, made the remarks at a national work conference on the protection of pasturing area. Officials came to an agreement at the conference to spend the next ten years revamping China’s deteriorating pastures by prioritizing environmental protection.
Gao’s call came on the heels of a government circular that stated that the government will make efforts to protect the environment and increase economic growth in pasturing areas, the deterioration of which have lead to desertification and sandstorms ….
Desertification is estimated to cause direct economic losses of 54 billion yuan ($8.44 billion) annually, Tang Yuan, a researcher from a State Council think tank, said in a previous interview with Xinhua.
Battling the problem is an enormous task; the government warned earlier this year that the fight against desertification could last 300 years. Grassland degradation has been a contributing factor in unrest in Inner Mongolia, exacerbated by heavy-handed conservation efforts: nomadic herders have been resettled in towns to prevent overgrazing. But a Mongolian rapper objects, expressing a widespread resentment at not only losing a traditional way of life, but being blamed for it: “Overgrazing is a myth and a lie. We have grazed animals here for thousands of years. Why has the desertification started since only a few decades ago?”
Nevertheless, there have been some successes in reclaiming desert through reforestation: see At the Desert’s Edge by Jonah Kessel, whose work on vanishing grasslands and hutongs has been previously featured on CDT.