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Grasslands Face Severe Desertification Despite Protection

China grasslands are still suffering severe desertification despite government funding of more than 10 billion yuan (US$144 million) in the past eight years to protect and restore them, an agricultural official said on Monday.

Liu Jiawen, deputy director of the grassland monitoring and administration center under the Ministry of Agriculture, told an international conference that the Chinese government had since 2000 launched a number of projects involving the restoration of grassland vegetation, the establishment of forage seed bases and grassland fencing.

"Conspicuous achievements have been made in these areas with the concerted efforts of local governments," he said at the 2008 International Grassland and Rangeland Congress in Hohhot, capital of north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.

One fifth of the country's grasslands had grazing bans or rehabilitation periods to help restore degraded grasslands, said Liu.

But he said the country's grasslands still faced "rather severe" desertification due to human activities and global warming, which was largely believed to have caused frequent drought in some pasture areas.

More investment and efforts were needed to protect the grasslands and develop them sustainably, he said. The weeklong conference, which opened on Sunday, has attracted more than 1,500 grasslands experts worldwide. They will discuss the use of grasslands and their protection. China has about 400 million hectares of grassland, or about 40 percent of its total land area. The grasslands in Inner Mongolia account for one fifth of the country's total.

(Xinhua News Agency July 1, 2008)

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