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Inner Mongolia's Green Efforts Benefit Beijing

Conservation efforts in Inner Mongolia have spurred the northern region's development and benefited the national capital, top regional officials said yesterday in Beijing.

The autonomous region, which is known as a major source of the seasonal sandstorms that blanket Beijing, has "done what it could" to curb ecological deterioration, Yang Jing, chairman of the regional government, said.

"Protecting the environment has been listed as Inner Mongolia's most important infrastructure project," Yang told a press conference organized by the State Council Information Office yesterday to mark the region's 60th anniversary.

"The number of sandstorms has fallen significantly in recent years, which favorably influences the weather in Beijing and Tianjin." 

Inner Mongolia, which is some 300 km north of Beijing, has long been thought of as the capital's backyard. However, the distance is not enough to protect Beijing from the wind-borne dust and sand that blow down from the region.

Dust blown in from western Inner Mongolia blanketed Beijing nearly two months ago, lowering visibility to 4 km from 20 km the previous day.

Inner Mongolia has spent some 20 billion yuan (US$2.7 billion) on efforts to halt desertification in an area measuring 16.7 million hectares over the past five years. It has also increased its forest coverage to 17.6 percent of its total area from 14.8 percent in 1999, Yang said.

At least 3 billion yuan was earmarked to implement the massive "Beijing-Tianjin windblown sand sources control project" in a bid to build a green ecological belt in northern China, according to regional government sources.

The project involves 458,000 sq km of land, about 48 percent of which lies in Inner Mongolia.

"There are several sources of sand and dust (affecting Beijing) besides Inner Mongolia. We have done what we could on our part," Yang said.

Chu Bo, secretary of the regional committee of the Communist Party of China, said yesterday that 70 percent of the region's livestock has been confined to enclosed pastures to reduce the grazing pressure on grasslands.

In addition to returning farmland to forests and reclaiming overgrazed pastures, Inner Mongolia has encouraged traditional pastoral areas to develop alternative industries.

Citing Erdos as a success story, Chu said the city would have plunged into an ecological vicious circle had it not built up secondary and tertiary industries.

As a result, the city of 1.4 million people is expected to have a gross domestic product of 100 billion yuan (US$13 billion) this year, a level of prosperity that can only be found in the country's coastal regions, Chu said.

Inner Mongolia is home to China's largest grasslands. The region spans 1.18 million sq km, which is about twice the size of Ukraine.

(China Daily July 26, 2007)

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