North central China being slowly swallowed by desert

Two deserts in north central China are rapidly expanding, burying 1,500 square miles of grasslands, lakes, forests, and villages under sand every year. Government-led deforestation and water-engineering projects are largely to blame. A giant reservoir near the town of Minqin diverts all available water resources into an irrigation system, but even that was run dry in 2004 by other water diversions upstream. Chinese officials tried to protect drought-stricken Minqin by planting deep-root trees on the desert fronts in an effort to keep the deserts from spreading even farther, but the trees were overcome by sand. Tens of thousands of people have fled the desert surge, and dust storms are already plaguing Beijing. Says Chinese enviro Chai Erhong, “This is not a natural disaster — it is man-made. And unless people study the lesson of Minqin, it will repeat itself clear across China.”