Green grass­land

ChinAfrica - - China Report -

Many peo­ple think of In­ner Mon­go­lia as a vast grass­land dot­ted with snow-white yurts and gal­lop­ing horses.

This is not the full pic­ture of the au­ton­o­mous re­gion, at least for Yin Yuzhen, a Shaanxi lo­cal who has been liv­ing in In­ner Mon­go­lia for more than 30 years. Her ex­pe­ri­ence in the re­gion is just the op­po­site: a vast ex­pan­sion of desert as well as the des­per­a­tion and iso­la­tion of liv­ing in it, where sand­storms could last for 40 days.

Yet to­gether with her hus­band, the cou­ple has con­verted parts of the Mu Us Desert, their iso­lated home, into a green zone. Yin’s idea of plant­ing trees to im­prove her liv­ing con­di­tions even­tu­ally paid off, de­spite much trial and er­ror. The cou­ple spent their sav­ings and bought 600 saplings, among which only about 100 sur­vived in the end. Now 32 years later, trees planted by the cou­ple cover an area of more than 70,000 mu (4,667 hectares), and many peo­ple have fol­lowed suit to cre­ate a swathe of green.

“Trees for me were the only hope, even though the prospects were quite dim,” said Yin. Elion Re­sources Group Ltd., a com­pany founded in 1988 in In­ner Mon­go­lia with the aim of eco­log­i­cal restora­tion and new en­ergy ex­plo­ration, has also spent decades tack­ling de­ser­ti­fi­ca­tion and has made re­mark­able progress in Hobq Desert in Or­dos, In­ner Mon­go­lia.

Over the past 29 years, the area of de­ser­ti­fi­ca­tion elim­i­nated by Elion has reached 10,000 square km, and another 6,000 square km have been trans­formed into reg­u­lar land.

“Now the sandy weather in Hobq has de­creased by 95 per­cent, and more than 100,000 lo­cals have been lifted out of poverty,” Wang Wen­biao, Pres­i­dent of Elion, told China Land and Re­sources News. “Com­pared with 1988, the rain­fall here has in­creased six-fold.”

“De­ser­ti­fi­ca­tion is not just a project for eco­log­i­cal restora­tion; it can also help peo­ple in poverty live a bet­ter life,” said Wang.

Since a visit to In­ner Mon­go­lia in 2014 by Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping, In­ner Mon­go­lia’s eco­log­i­cal pro­tec­tion has been fast tracked, with more ef­forts in desert con­trol, grass­land pro­tec­tion and water and soil preser­va­tion. Since 2011, the state has pro­vided sub­si­dies for eco­log­i­cal pro­tec­tion, which had amounted to 30 bil­lion yuan ($4.29 bil­lion) by 2016.

Now, In­ner Mon­go­lia Au­ton­o­mous Re­gion has 182 na­ture re­serves and 43 na­tional for­est parks. the coun­try. In the past three years, In­ner Mon­go­lia Au­ton­o­mous Re­gion has made sig­nif­i­cant progress in in­dus­trial re­struc­tur­ing. The pro­por­tion of coal-re­lated in­dus­tries dropped to 22 per­cent in 2016, com­pared with 34 per­cent in 2011.

Now, the over-re­liance on nat­u­ral re­sources for de­vel­op­ment in In­ner Mon­go­lia Au­ton­o­mous Re­gion has changed, and var­i­ous al­ter­na­tive in­dus­tries, like de­vel­op­ing a world class big data and cloud com­put­ing in­dus­try, have boomed in re­cent years.

“The out­put of the re­gion’s big data in­dus­try is ex­pected to sur­pass 100 bil­lion yuan ($15 bil­lion) by 2020,” said Bu Xiaolin, Chair­woman of the In­ner Mon­go­lia Au­ton­o­mous Re­gion. In ad­di­tion, tourism, in­creas­ing an­nu­ally by over 20 per­cent on av­er­age, made the econ­omy grow by an av­er­age of 7.9 per­cent each year from 2013 to 2016. Mon­go­lians were tra­di­tion­ally re­ferred to as “peo­ple who live on horse­back” since they led a semi-no­madic pas­toral life­style on grass­lands. Now, mod­ern tech­nolo­gies have also been adopted in many in­dus­tries in­clud­ing live­stock farm­ing.

Many an­i­mals have been fit­ted with GPS col­lars to en­able herds­men to ac­cu­rately lo­cate them via com­put­ers or smart­phones. Wa­ter­ing sys­tems, which au­to­mat­i­cally main­tain a cer­tain level of water to en­sure ad­e­quate sup­ply for herds, have also been adopted in many ar­eas in the re­gion.

Since 2012, a to­tal of 1.41 mil­lion peo­ple have been lifted out of poverty, and ba­sic med­i­cal in­sur­ance now cov­ers 98 per­cent of the com­bined urban and ru­ral pop­u­la­tion. In­ner Mon­go­lia Au­ton­o­mous Re­gion’s ur­ban­iza­tion rate has sur­passed 60 per­cent.

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