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I. Geography and natural conditions
Besides hills, plains, deserts, rivers and lakes, Inner Mongolia has plateau landforms, mostly over 1,000 meters (about 13,780 feet) above sea level, including the Inner Mongolia Plateau, the second largest among the four major plateaus in the country.
Inner Mongolia has a temperate continental climate. There, spring is warm and windy; summer is short and hot with many rainy days; autumn usually sees early frost and plummeting temperature; winter is long, bitter cold with frequent polar outbreaks. The region has an annual precipitation of 100-500 mm, 80-150 frost-free days, and 2,700 hours of sunshine. The Greater Hinggan Mountains and the Yinshan Mountains divide the regions into areas with different climate. The area east of the Greater Hinggan Mountains and north of the Yinshan Mountains has lower temperature and less precipitation than the opposite area.
Animals and plants:
Inner Mongolia has 2,351 species of plants including vegetation of arbors, shrubs and herbs. It is home to 117-plus species of wild animals and 362 species of birds, 49 species of them under state and regional protection and 10 precious and rare.
Inner Mongolia has water resources of 90.3 billion cubic meters, of which 67.5 billion is surface water. Nearly 1,000 rivers run in the region, 107 rivers averaging a valley area of more than 1,000 square km each. Moreover, 1,000 lakes dot the region, eight of them with an area of over 100 square km each. Inner Mongolia boasts mineral water and springs with medical value. It has a total water area of 984,300 hectares including 655,000 hectares of fresh water, which accounts for 10.68 percent of the country's total fresh water area.
Forests, grasslands, and cultivated land:
The region has 7.22 million hectares (17,840,937 acres) of cultivated land, or 6.11 percent of the country's total, 86.66 million hectares of grasslands, or 73.3 percent of the country's total, and 18.66 million hectares of forests, 15.8 percent of the country's total.
More than 120 kinds of minerals of the world's total 140 kinds have been found in the region, five of which have the largest deposits in China and 65 of which rank among the top ten of their kinds in the country. The reserves of rare earth amount to 84.59 million tons, or 80 percent of the world's total and over 90 percent of the country's total. The proven deposits of coal hit 224.75 billion tons, the second largest in the country. The region has large reserves of ferrous metals, non-ferrous metals, precious metals, and industrial chemicals, and non-metal minerals. It also has abundant oil and natural gas and 13 large oil and gas fields have been discovered with expected oil reserves of 2-3 billion tons and gas reserves of 1,000 billion cubic meters. The minerals (excluding oil and natural gas) in the region have a potential value of 13,000 billion yuan, accounting for 10 percent of the country's total volume and ranking as the third largest in the country.
Inner Mongolia is rich in tourist attractions: Colorful ethnic culture, grassland scenery, the virgin forests in the Greater Hinggan Mountains, grand views along the Yellow River, the majestic Xiangsha Gulf, rivers and lakes, and springs. Inner Mongolia is home to the Mausoleum of Genghis Khan, the Zhaojun Tomb, ancient Great Wall, Wudang Monastery at the bottom of the Yinshan Mountains, Wuta Monastery, Bailing Temple, and tomb murals dating back to the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220).
Owing to its special geological condition, Inner Mongolia features a harsh eco-environment. In recent decades, the greenhouse effect and unscientific exploitation have aggravated drought, desertification, and soil erosion. The desertified land and the potential ones cover 60 percent of the regional area and are increasing 670,000 hectares per year.
The desertification and alkalization of grasslands have brought frequent sandstorms. The deterioration of water conservation capacity of the Greater Hinggan Mountains has resulted in floods in the Songhua and Liaohe river valleys. Each year 300 million tons of soil are washed away in the Yellow and western Liaohe rivers, or 30,000 hectares of land lost. As a result, rivers are choked with silt that stops their flow.
To improve ecological environment, the Ecological Construction Project, one of the ten projects of the western development campaign, has been launched recently in the region which includes turning the cultivated land into forests and grasslands, planting grass and suspending animal husbandry, shelterbelts in the northeast, northwest and the north, anti-desertification, virgin forest protection in the Greater Hinggan Mountains, and resettlement. It is expected that by 2005 the deteriorated eco-environment can be brought under control, with first steps at reclamation achieved by 2010, and that mountains will be green and rivers clear again by mid-century.