image: jim mcgill photography
The Chinese government is building 10’s of 1000’s of these homes for the Nomad Tibetans because it has been deemed that the Nomadic Herdsman and their Yaks are impacting the environment, causing desertification.
Is this the future for the Nomadic peoples, no yards and no place for livestock or a garden? There are very few employment opportunities at this “re-settlement” village which is 9800 feet above sea level on the Tibetan plateau and 75 miles from the nearest place that could be called a town; a 3 day commute for people that do not own a vehicle.
China has adopted new legislation intended to control and ultimately reverse the worsening trend of desertification in the country, which currently claims about 2,500 square kilometres a year. The new law:
* States that land occupants have a duty not only to prevent desertification but also to restore areas that have already become desert;
* Promises unspecified preferential policies, tax breaks, subsidies and technical support to offset the cost of this unfunded mandate;
* Creates a new class of protected areas off-limits to development and calls for farmers and herders to be removed from those areas; and
* Authorizes local governments to grant land-use rights of up to 70 years to desertified areas if the landholder promises to undertake restoration efforts.
Desertification in China has become a big issue in Beijing over recent years as sandstorms have struck the city with increasing frequency and intensity.
China’s Environment and Resources Committee Chairman (and former Environment Minister) Qu Geping, has stated that climate change and three consecutive years of drought were partly responsible for the storms, but that their principal cause was irrational human activity and lax enforcement of ecological protection laws.
All together, according to official sources, about 20,000 square kilometres of Chinese land (the size of Massachusetts) is being degraded each year due to desertification, soil erosion, salinization and other factors. Since China is attempting to feed a fifth of the world’s people on one-fifteenth of its arable land, this is not an issue the authorities can afford to ignore.
China’s favoured option for controlling desertification and wind erosion has been to plant trees, even in arid zones where it may be inappropriate. In many cases, planting grasses and shrubs would be far more effective.
image: tree planting near Xilinhot as part of Central-Government Funded effort to control dust storms
There are according to a report from the US Embassy in China many complex reasons as to why desertification is on the increase in China. Take a look a their report here.
Clearly one of the consequences is the end of nomadic life. These re-housed rural folk may instead end up drifting towards the outskirts of China’s mega-cities. It may take a generation but their children’s lives will be changed forever.