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Across China: China-Arab Cooperation Brings New Opportunities to Tackle Desertification

When Ahmed Nazal Nuri, an official from the League of Arab States’ environment and climate affairs department, saw farmers in northwest China’s Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region using a bale of hay to fix sand on a sand dune, he was amazed by this simple yet effective technique.

He was visiting the Maowusu Desert in the Baijitan national nature reserve, in the city of Lingwu, in late September, together with some 20 visitors from 13 Arab, South Asian and African countries. The group had come in search of technological know-how on combating desertification and implementing ecological restoration — and they were not disappointed.

In the Maowusu Desert, hay is spread on the ground in a checkered pattern, resembling a Chinese chessboard if viewed from above. The hay helps to fix the sand, allowing fresh vegetation to sprout on the surface.

The farmers’ hard work has transformed the desert into a green oasis, and yet their persistence at this apparently impossible task has earned them the nickname “modern-day Yugongs.” It is a reference to Yugong — or the Foolish Old Man — a legendary figure of ancient China who is said to have removed a mountain in front of his home using his bare hands.

The field trip by the international group was linked to a forum on desertification that formed part of year’s China-Arab States Expo, held in Yinchuan, capital of Ningxia, in late September.

“Desertification has reached a critical point in many Arab countries. To fight desertification needs international cooperation. We are grateful that our hosts organized this tour-study program for us to see in the field how China tackles this problem,” said Ahmed Nazal Nuri.

Cooperation between China and Arab nations is already underway. In August, China and the League of Arab States inaugurated an international research center for drought, desertification and land degradation in Beijing.

“China will provide necessary personnel and operational support for the institute. We will jointly invite financial support for running the research center and establish partnerships with various parties,” said Wang Hua, an official of the National Forestry and Grassland Administration of China.

Speaking at the forum, Chinese experts also shared their opinions on how to turn deserts into photovoltaic power generation bases. During their recent research conducted at the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park near Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, some Chinese engineers designed a special barrier to block sand from invading the park’s power plant, while making a soil formula for consolidating the ground at the plant.

Feng Qi, an academician of Chinese Academy of Engineering, said that China and Arab states face many similar natural and social problems in their desert areas, such as large-scale desertification, damage caused by deserts and underdevelopment in social and economic fields due to deserts.

“China can participate deeply in projects such as the Saudi and Middle East Green Initiatives and the Great Green Wall initiative in the Sahara Desert, offering its desertification prevention and control experience to Arab and African countries, while carrying out joint scientific research,” said Feng.

Source: Xinhua