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I. Geography and natural conditions

Elevation extremes:

The topography of Ningxia slants toward the north with an elevation from 1,100 to 2,000 meters. The highest point is 3,556 meters above sea level.

Natural resources:

Ningxia boasts 0.71 million hectares of wasteland suitable for farming, one of China’s eight provinces and autonomous regions each with more than 0.63 million hectares of wasteland suitable for agriculture. There are 3 million hectares of exploitable meadows, making Ningxia one of the ten major pastures in China. The Weining Plain that features 0.37 million hectares of land irrigated with water diverted from the Huanghe River is one of the four principal areas with gravity irrigation in northwest China. For years, the annual runoff of the Huanghe River through Ningxia has remained at 32.5 billion cubic meters, and the water resources allocated to Ningxia by the state for irrigation are 4 billion cubic meters.

The rich land resources, convenient conditions to divert water from the Huanghe River for irrigation, and abundant sunshine have laid a solid foundation for Ningxia to bring into play its advantages in the development of agriculture. Crops, melons, and other fruit are doing well in the irrigated area. Watermelon, apple, and grape from the irrigated area have a 15-20 percent higher sugar content than those produced in central China. The per-hectare yield of single-cropping paddy reaches 47 kilograms, placing Ningxia in front among the provinces and autonomous regions in western China and turning it into one of the nation’s 12 grain production bases. Effort is being taken to build Ningxia into a national agricultural demonstration area with high yield, high efficiency, and fine quality.

Livestock breading makes up of 29 percent of the local agriculture. Of the 82,000-hectare water surfaces, 10,000 hectares can be used for aquaculture. Ningxia produces various species of carp, river shrimp, and river crabs. There is a great potential for the development of aquaculture. In recent years, Ningxia has seen a rapid development of the aquatic production. It leads other provinces and autonomous regions in the northwest in the per-capita output of aquatic products.

Ningxia is rich in mineral resources, with verified deposits of 50 kinds of minerals including coal, gypsum, oil, natural gas, pottery clay, quartz sandstone, and barite. The potential value of these natural resources per capita is 163.5 percent of the nation’s average, putting Ningxia fifth in the country. There are abundant reserves of various kinds of coal. Ningxia has formed a considerable scale of coal production. It leads the country in the deposits of gypsum, with verified deposits of more than 4.5 billion tons. Top-grade gypsum makes up half of the total deposits. The Huojiakouzi deposit in Tongxin County features a reserve of 20 tons of gypsum in 20 layers with a total thickness of 100 meters. It is a rarely-seen large gypsum in China. The reserve of oil and natural gas is ideal for a large-scale development of oil, natural gas, and chemical industries. There is a considerable deposit of quartz sandstone, of which 17 million tons have been ascertained. In addition, there are phosphorus, firestone, copper, iron, other minerals as well as Helan stone (a special clay stone).


The northern part of the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region is surrounded by the Tengger, Maowusu, and Ulan Buh deserts. There is a serious desertification in the autonomous region. The crisscrossing gullies and ravines in the southern part caused a serious water loss and soil erosion. But in the long years of efforts to transform nature, the people of Ningxia have made achievements of world interest. A latest statistics showed that the area of decertified land has shrunk from 16,5000 square kilometers in the 1970s to present-day 12,600 square kilometers, a decrease of 23.6 percent, making Ningxia the first among China’s provinces and autonomous regions to realize a decrease of its decertified area.

Ningxia has a forest land of 400,000 hectares with a standing-timber reserve of 6.74 million cubic meters. The forest cover has shot up from 1.3 percent in the 1950 to today’s 6.4 percent. In the last 40 years, the Zhongwei Sand-Fixing Tree Farm on the fringe of the Tengger Desert has adopted the “square grass-planting method’’ and other measures to check the wind and fix shifting sand, ensuring a smooth operation of the Baolan (Baotou-Lanzhou) Railway, China’s first railroad passing through deserts. The tree farm was cited by the United Nations as one of the “world’s 500 best tree farms’’ in environmental protection.

Remarkable results were also achieved in the prevention of industrial pollution and the maintenance of the quality of urban environment. From 1991 to 1996, Ningxia saw an annual increase of 11.4 percent in its industrial production, but the environmental quality did not deteriorate. The percentage of treatment of industrial wastewater and that of the removal of smoke dust have risen from 38 and 86 in 1991 to 76 and 90 respectively.

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