China plans to join forces with neighbouring countries in a drive to combat sandstorms.
The storms are one of the most serious environmental issues affecting millions of Chinese and people in neighbouring countries, but officials hope they will be able to combat them by working in partnership with other affected nations.
"By the end of the year we hope a special foundation will be established by China and neighbouring countries which were also plagued by sandstorms this spring, like South Korea and Japan," said Qu Guilin, director of the department of International Co-operation under the State Forestry Administration (SFA).
Qu revealed the long-awaited plan at a press conference held during the Beijing International Conference on Women and Desertification, which opened in Beijing yesterday.
Liu Tuo, head of the SFA's sandy land control office, said China, Japan, South Korea and Mongolia have jointly worked out an overall plan for sandstorm control in Northeast Asia, which they hope will deal with the increasing threat of an environmental disaster in the region.
"The plan includes atmosphere monitoring and ground soil control," he said.
"It will be implemented as soon as international funding is available."
To date, China has co-operated with a third of the world's nations in the fight against desertification and land degradation, a global ecological problem which affects two-thirds of the world's countries and regions, with one-fifth of the global population suffering from its affects including sandstorms and poverty.
Vice-Premier Hui Liangyu told the conference: "The solution to the difficult problem of desertification requires the joint efforts of the international community."
As a responsible country and a permanent and reliable partner in the world, China will make efforts to promote international co-operation in combating desertification, he said.
Hui made it clear that the government was committed to working with the international community to preserve the world's delicate environment.
Meanwhile a leading agricultural expert said China's vast tracts of farmland must not be neglected in the battle against sandstorms.
Dusty conditions plagued a large part of northern China this spring with a particularly heavy dust storm hitting Beijing on April 16, during which 330,000 tons of dust fell on the capital.
And Li Hongwen, a professor from the China Agriculture University, said a large part of the dust was not sand, which is said to blow in from the deserts of Inner Mongolia, but soil from farms around the capital.
Li and his colleagues collected soil samples from farms in the suburbs of Beijing and neighbouring Hebei Province, as well as dust from the desert area of Inner Mongolia.
Only extremely small granules of dust can be blown to Beijing from Inner Mongolia, but Li found that the granules of the dust falling in Beijing were mainly larger ones meaning the majority are from nearby farms rather than the desert.
In reaction to this problem the Ministry of Agriculture is now promoting "conservation tillage" an innovative method of cultivation which challenges the traditional methods Chinese farmers have used for thousands of years.
With "conservation tillage" the traditional technique of ploughing the soil to turn it over is abandoned. Instead the remains of crops are left in the soil, binding the earth together and reducing the affect of wind and water erosion, said Li.
Beijing yesterday announced its plan for "conservation tillage" to become mandatory in three years.
By 2008, 153,000 hectares of Beijing's farmland will be cultivated in the new way.
Source: China Daily