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I. Geography and natural conditions
Elevation:: 1,000-3,000 meters.
Gansu features a land area of 455,000 square kilometers, including 3.53 million hectares of cultivated land or 0.14 hectare per capita, 16.64 million hectares of grassland, and 4.26 million hectares of forests with a standing timber reserve of 200 million cubic meters. In addition, there are 1 million hectares of wasteland suitable for agriculture, 6.66 million hectares of wasteland suitable for forestation, and 4.76 million hectares of mountain slopes suitable for livestock breeding.
Nearly 3,000 deposits of 145 kinds of minerals have been found and the reserves of 94 kinds of minerals have been ascertained, including nickel, cobalt, platinum family elements, selenium, casting clay, finishing serpentine, and five other minerals whose reserves are the largest in the country. Gansu has special advantages in tapping 15 kinds of minerals such as nickel, zinc, cobalt, platinum, iridium, copper, stibium, barite, and baudisserite.
The water resources in Gansu are mainly distributed in nine river systems in the Yellow, Yangtze, and inland river drainage basins with an annual discharge of 61.4 billion cubic meters and a combined hydropower potential of 17.24 million kw. Gansu places ninth among China’s provinces and autonomous regions in terms of hydropower potential. To date, 29 hydropower stations have been constructed in the province with an installed generating capacity of 30 million kw and an annual output of 23.565 billion kwh. The Liujiaxia, Yanguoxia, and Bapanxia hydropower stations on the upper reaches of the Yellow River and the Bikou Hydropower Station on the Bailong River have a total installed capacity of 212.5 kw. The proved reserves of coal are 8.92 billion tons, and those of petroleum, between 600 and 700 million tons. There is also a considerable potential for the development of wind and solar energies.
Animals and plants:
There are 659 species of wild animals, including the giant panda, snub-nosed monkey, antelope, snow leopard, deer, fawn, musk deer, bactrian (two-humped) camel, and 24 other first-class rare animals under state protection, and 441 species of birds in Gansu Province. There are over 4,000 species of wild plants including 951 species of medical value. Of which 450 species, such as angelica root, rhubarb, hairy asiabell root, licorice root, fritillary bulb, mariajuana, the bark of eucommia, glossy ganoderma, and Chinese caterpillar fungus, have been developed. Gansu holds second place among China’s provinces and autonomous regions in the variety of medicinal herbs.
Gansu faces an adverse ecological environment -- an acute shortage of water resources, sparse vegetation, and a serious water and soil loss. Every year, the section of the Yellow River in Gansu washes away more than 500 million tons of silt containing about 50 kilograms of organic matters. These include 3.5 kilograms of pure nitrogen and 2 kilograms of pure phosphorus. The washed-away silt accounts for one-third of the annual silt the Yellow River carries to the lower reaches.
In recent years, biological methods, the construction of projects, and technical measures have been made on a large scale to bring water and soil loss under control. Effort was also taken to improve the ecological environment on the Loess Plateau. Cultivated land was turned back into forest and grassland in an effort to strengthen the protection and maintenance of the ecological environment. The readjustment of the agricultural structure will be stepped up, with stress on readjusting the variety of agricultural products, the ratio between the development of grain and cash crops, and the locations of the various economic sectors.