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Desertification in China


In light of China’s numerous other accomplishments, it may not surprise that the country faces a major threat of Desertification. More than 400 million people are affected by Desertification, which has ravaged 27% of China’s land area – more than 1,000,000 sq miles. Desertification is how dryland ecosystems become less productive due to natural or man-made factors (arid and semiarid lands). Climate change, deforestation, soil erosion, unemployment, and insufficient irrigation affect agricultural production. [1]While this concept threatens the expansion of existing dryland habitats, it also threatens all dryland ecosystems, from grasslands to scrublands to deserts. Three deserts surround China’s northwest area.

Desertification had damaged 2.97 million hectares of land by 2010, accounting for 57% of China’s total land area. Due to water scarcity and the rising threat of starvation, soil erosion and Desertification could substantially impact global health. As a result, some individuals may be compelled to relocate. [2]Deserts account for around 27% of China’s land area. Dunes are currently forming only 44 miles from Beijing, although dunes in the Gobi desert are forming at 2 miles per year in the capital’s direction. The Gobi desert covers around 500,000 square kilometers of desertified terrain. Additionally, the desert is spreading at the fastest rate in the world.

The problem from the scientific perspective and its significance


When a parcel of land becomes overgrazed, it becomes unusable (land degradation). Small plots of land degrade over time if no preventive measures are taken to preserve them. Additionally, it has been demonstrated that cow stomping has a critical role in the germination and stabilization of patches. Numerous plant species are removed due to employing animal cloves to dislodge the topmost soil layer, and bare ground can be seen (about 10 cm). Due to wind erosion, exposed soil is also prone to eroding and decaying. Winds struggle to move soil with a moisture level of more than or equal to 2.8 to 5.5 percent.

Because high wind speeds carry the dust away from the land and the risk of degradation is greater during the winter months when the vegetation is sparser, high wind speeds are necessary. Spring is the best time to view Desertification in action since the soil is still bare and exposed following the winter’s thaw, making the process easier to observe. Erosion depletes the soil of its minerals and properties, most notably its clay content. The ph of the soil has a detrimental effect on its moisture content. When the amount of clay in the soil diminishes, the capacity of the soil to retain water reduces as well.

Dust storms

Trough formation was responsible for more than two-thirds of the region’s catastrophic dust storms. [3]Dust storms are more likely to occur at high wind speeds, aggravated because temperatures have climbed considerably over the previous decade due to global warming. Declining moisture levels and evaporation rates frequently cause severe weather. Catastrophic dust storms have wreaked havoc on China’s wind erosion track. Sand particles in the air may wreak havoc on plants, agriculture, and the environment.

Additionally, they have the potential to cause harm to electrical and communication infrastructure. According to some estimates, China’s deserts produce half of all the dust on the earth. Wind erosion of the soil’s most productive layer reduces the land’s wealth and assets. As an illustration, a dust storm may cover more than 1 million square kilometers of northern China. [4]Due to the city’s environmental degradation, Beijing’s air quality index reached a record high of 621, which the world health organization refers to as the “beyond index.”

Water scarcity

Water scarcity is a major issue in northern China, particularly in the provinces. The study focused on northwest China’s shiyang river basin, with the highest population density per square kilometer of land area. [5]Both natural and human-induced forces are deteriorating this oasis, which is collapsing due to its ecological decline. Without changes and protective steps, the oasis will perish. As of 2020, the basin’s net water usage surpassed its entire resource capacity by 103 percent, and the number of oases has fallen considerably over the last 50 years.

As a result, decertified land has grown by 15,000 hm2/year, and dunes have grown by 8 to 10 meters/year, either directly or indirectly. Water requirements in the middle and lower areas are substantially different, compounded by agricultural expansion in the middle and lower regions particularly in the middle and lower regions. Due to water scarcity in the lower regions, they must relocate to areas with a better chance of survival. Due to the area’s rapid expansion of agriculture and irrigated land, salinization levels have risen far above those predicted by specialists in similar situations.

Economic advancement

Over the last half-century, a sizable portion of China’s economic progress has been gained at the expense of the environment. Some worry that, given China’s current level of greenhouse gas emissions and other environmentally hazardous substances, other countries will continue to tolerate the country’s massive expansion while ignoring the natural environment for an extended period. They have made tremendous advancements in environmental and economic policy. Deng’s economic reforms, which he dubbed “socialism with Chinese characteristics,” became a distinguishing aspect of his rule.

China’s soil deterioration was a major source of concern during the debate over this economic reform. Farmers reported greater control over their lands following legislation allowing people to rent farmland for 15-year periods rather than purchasing it outright. As a result, farmers had limited control over the crops they could plant. As a result, farmers were compelled to maximize their yields in the limited time they had remaining on their land, with little concern for future years or the agriculturist who would be left with a plot of ground that was useless and in terrible shape. While farmers owned cattle, the grazing land collectively belonged to the entire community. Farmers let their cattle roam freely on their property to maximize the use of available resources, regardless of the impact on the soil’s health.


Because Mongolia’s soil degradation has decreased yields, the affected plant’s feeding expenditures may increase due to the reduced food supply. Farmers may be obliged to use greater fertilizer to raise a highly competitive crop. As a result, shoppers may see a price hike on their purchases.

Steps were taken to battle desertification

China has made numerous large-scale attempts to battle Desertification, elevating the country to the rank of a major player in this conflict. [6]The three-north shelterbelt program, colloquially referred to as the “green great wall of China” was established to restore degraded land and prevent the Gobi desert from encroaching on northern China’s fertile grass farmlands[7]. Additionally, the Chinese government has devised a national action program to battle Desertification can be prevented by extending conservation areas and rehabilitating overgrazed and marginal farmland to its natural state. Fixation procedures for mobile dunes and aero seeding on the Baotou-Lanzhou railway, which connects Beijing and Lanzhou, are examples of such processes. Additional strategies, including thin strip planting and straw checkerboard networks, are available. Planned management of hills and watersheds to minimize erosion

As a result, significant incentives have been developed to incentivize private sector enterprises to invest in repairing degraded areas via public-private partnerships. Following China’s 2016 launch of the belt and road joint action initiative, cooperation between partner countries and communities along the silk road is expected to intensify. The Ningxia government developed the Ningxia desertification control and ecological protection project in 2010 to address desertification management and remediation challenges. A larger scale of pilot operations may be conducted due to the project’s success in relieving some of Ningxia’s most severely desertified counties of their financial burden.

[8]Improved restoration techniques have been used to assist in controlling Desertification and promoting environmental resilience, all while facilitating technical advancements. China has transformed over 8.8 million hectares (hectares) of decertified land into green land since 2016, making significant progress in the fight against Desertification and diseases associated with it. As a result, 88 percent of China’s reclaimable deserts have been reclaimed, accounting for more than half of the country’s 2016-2020 objective of reclaiming 10 million hectares (ha) of desertification land. As a result, the frequency of dusty weather has decreased by 20.3 percent annually on average in the united states since 1990. Because environmentally friendly enterprises are being developed in response to the needs of dry and decertified areas, China’s fight against Desertification and poverty reduction has advanced significantly.

Grain production increased by 10% to 20%, while grass fodder production doubled. Harvesting and grazing on damaged woods and grasslands have prohibited promoting natural regeneration. Eight million hectares of fuelwood plantations have been constructed to supply five million rural homes; windmills and renewable thermal energy are also employed as fuel alternatives. Total afforestation of 401 000 artificial plantings and 271 000 aero seedings has been accomplished.


Desertification effects are a major concern for those impacted; nevertheless, desertification eradication has an underlying greening tendency. On a larger scale, Desertification is a result of climate change. Desertification and water shortages are at the heart of China’s development challenges and require immediate attention in national, regional, and global policies and actions. Combating Desertification in China has enormous benefits in accelerating its progress toward meeting the MDGs, especially in eradicating poverty, food security, disease control, and environmental sustainability.

China’s government has responded and achieved significant strides in addressing drought and Desertification with the assistance of international partners


Blazey, Patricia. 2012. “Approaches to Increasing Desertification in Northern China.” The Chinese Economy 45 (3): 88–101.

Cheng, Leilei, Qi Lu, Bo Wu, Changbin Yin, Yingshuang Bao, and Liyan Gong. 2016. “Estimation of the Costs of Desertification in China: A Critical Review.” Land Degradation & Development 29 (4): 975–83.

“China’s Fight against Desertification Should Not Be Done at the Cost of Water Security – Our World.” 2017. 2017.

“China’s ‘Great Green Wall’ Fights Expanding Desert.” 2017. Science. April 21, 2017.

“Desertification in China.” n.d. Pulitzer Center. Accessed September 1, 2021.

Liu, Qingfu, Yanyun Zhao, Xuefeng Zhang, Alexander Buyantuev, Jianming Niu, and Xiaojiang Wang. 2018. “Spatiotemporal Patterns of Desertification Dynamics and Desertification Effects on Ecosystem Services in the Mu Us Desert in China.” Sustainability 10 (3): 589.

Reid, Tim. 2007. “Desertification: Unshifting Sands.” Nature China, May.

Wang, X., G. Wang, L. Lang, T. Hua, and H. Wang. 2013. “AEOLIAN TRANSPORT and SANDY DESERTIFICATION in SEMIARID CHINA: A WIND TUNNEL APPROACH.” Land Degradation & Development 24 (6): 605–12.

[1] X. Wang et al., “AEOLIAN TRANSPORT and SANDY DESERTIFICATION in SEMIARID CHINA: A WIND TUNNEL APPROACH,” Land Degradation & Development 24, no. 6 (September 13, 2013): 605–12,

[2] “Desertification in China,” Pulitzer Center, accessed September 1, 2021,

[3] Tim Reid, “Desertification: Unshifting Sands,” Nature China, May 30, 2007,

[4] Leilei Cheng et al., “Estimation of the Costs of Desertification in China: A Critical Review,” Land Degradation & Development 29, no. 4 (July 19, 2016): 975–83,

[5] Qingfu Liu et al., “Spatiotemporal Patterns of Desertification Dynamics and Desertification Effects on Ecosystem Services in the Mu Us Desert in China,” Sustainability 10, no. 3 (February 26, 2018): 589,

[6] Patricia Blazey, “Approaches to Increasing Desertification in Northern China,” The Chinese Economy 45, no. 3 (May 2012): 88–101,

[7] “China’s ‘Great Green Wall’ Fights Expanding Desert,” Science, April 21, 2017,

[8] “China’s Fight against Desertification Should Not Be Done at the Cost of Water Security – Our World,”, 2017,


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