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Soil Erosion Targeted in Guangdong

A province-wide campaign to study soil erosion in Guangdong is under way, with an eye toward one day reversing the environmental degradation that has taken place in this prosperous province.

Guangdong's rapid economic development has come at great cost to the environment, sources with the provincial bureau of water conservancy said.

"Guangdong is not only one of the country's economic powerhouses, but also a leader in soil erosion," Nanfang Daily reported Monday.

The province ranks second in soil erosion on the mainland, the paper said.

Sources with the water conservancy bureau said more than 2,200 sq km of soil had eroded during the 10th Five-Year Plan period (2001-05), and water conservation experts have warned the situation could be worse during the 11th Five-Year Plan period (2006-10).

Experts have said erosion could spread to 5,748 sq km of land, about 3.2 percent of the province's farmland, by 2010.

Their warning comes as the province is busy building new highways, ports, railways, oil and gas pipelines, power stations, steelworks, automobile plants and other industrial projects that will inevitably take their toll on the environment.

The Guangdong provincial government plans to invest more than 1.24 billion yuan ($165 billion) in infrastructure and energy projects during the 2006-10 period.

To prevent further erosion, industrial projects that could damage the environment will not be allowed to proceed.

And the provincial government will not only increase fines for those who cause soil erosion, but also reward people who report situations that could lead to the destruction of the province's land resources.

Illegal sand digging

In a related development, the water conservancy department and police have promised to work together to combat unauthorized sand digging in the Pearl River.

A special task force is to be set up to crack down on illegal digging in major rivers in the province, which borders the Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions.

Lu Yingming, deputy director of the Guangdong provincial department of water conservancy, said unauthorized sand digging had destroyed or damaged many dikes and other water conservancy facilities in the province's Xijiang, Dongjiang and Beijiang rivers in recent years, threatening people's lives and property.

The Xijiang, Dongjiang and Beijiang are major tributaries of the Pearl River, the third longest river in the country.

Many riverbeds and riparian transportation routes have been damaged because of illegal sand digging, which has also caused geological disasters and salt tides in recent years.

Lu said illegal diggers can earn a lot of money by selling off the sand they steal.

Guangdong's construction industry uses more than 100 million cu m a year, while Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan buy another 10 million cu m.

(China Daily November 20, 2007)

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