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Soil conservation aids Yellow River

THE Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, an arid area in northwest China, has reported a marked reduction of mud and sand washed into the Yellow River, thanks to soil and land conservation efforts in the past years.

Ningxia had controlled soil erosion over an area of 19,500 square kilometers, or 40 percent of the region's total, as of the end of last year, and mud and sand washed into the Yellow River had been reduced by 40 million tons annually since 2003, said an official with the local water resources department yesterday.

"The regional government spent more than 4 million yuan (US$590,000) on average each year to control soil erosion," said Zhang Ning, an official with the soil and water conservation bureau of the local water resources department.

He said the investments were used to build new dikes, reinforce existing dikes and plant trees along the river.

The areas along the middle and upper reaches of the Yellow River suffer the most serious soil erosion in the world, with a total eroded area of 454,000 square kilometers.

The average amount of mud and sand washed into the river every year reaches 1.6 billion tons.

Starting in 2003, China planned to pour a total of 83 billion yuan into tackling soil erosion along the Yellow River by constructing more than 160,000 dams.

"Greater efforts are still needed to plant trees and grass in areas along the river to reduce the amount of mud and sand washed into the Yellow River as arid weather has worsened the soil erosion situation," said Li Shengbao, vice president of Ningxia Academy of Agriculture and Forestry Sciences.

Li is a director of a program, which focuses on studying techniques to restore ecological systems in semiarid hilly loess areas.

Under the program, a 2,000-hectare experimental base will be set up in Penyang County of Ningxia.

"We hope that the program will help the forestation rate in the experimental area stay at 50 percent or above," Li said.

Ningxia has already invested 45 million yuan so far this year to combat soil erosion.

"We believe water in the Yellow River will become more clear in the future," Zhang said.


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