Deserts Eat Up China's Usable Land

In arid provinces, farms and families feel pinch of policy gone awry
By Heather McPherson,  Newser User
Posted Aug 16, 2007 5:03 PM CDT
Deserts Eat Up China's Usable Land
A farmer passes a crop field in Minqi, Gansu province, China, March 17, 2007. In a problem that's pervasive in much of China, overfarming has drawn down the water table so low that desert is overtaking farmland. Authorities have ordered farmers here in Gansu province to vacate their properties over...   (Associated Press)

With China's deserts spreading another 950 square miles each year, the government is evicting families and replanting farms to stem the tide, the Christian Science Monitor reports from Gansu province. With 20% of the world's population but 7% of its arable land, China's decades-old problem has worsened due to overfarming, deforestation and global warming.

Some farmers leave willingly; others are frustrated about being forced out with little compensation. To curb desertification, the government planted billions of trees—but that only adds to the larger problem of ever-diminishing water sources. "I have no option," says one farmer. "The government tells me to move and won't listen to us." (Read more environment stories.)

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