Technology helps reforestation efforts in Inner Mongolia
Photo shows scenery of Saihanba in Weichang Manchu and Mongolian Autonomous County in Chengde, north China's Hebei Province. Saihanba is a combination of Chinese and Mongolian meaning "beautiful highlands". [Photo: Xinhua/Wang Long]
Modern technology is now being deployed in northern China to help knock back desertification, giving the capital region around Beijing much-needed relief from decades of sandstorms.
Work over the past 30 years has seen the creation of the world's largest artificial forest in the northernmost part Hebei near the province's border with Inner Mongolia.
The 'greening' of the Hunshan Desert is the result of 3 generations worth of reforestation efforts around 400-kilometers north of Beijing.
Li Xiaojing is one of those people who has been actively working to create the Saihanba Forest Farm.
"There are 480 million trees in the farm. If you were to arrange the trees at one-meter intervals, the total length would wrap around the earth at the equator 12-and-a-half times."
Saihanba used to be a hunting ground for the Kang Xi Emperor during the Qing Dynasty.
However, 100 years of wars, forest fires and the felling of trees allowed the Hunshan Desert to creep in, turning the once lush region into a desert in the 1960's, subjecting Beijing to frequent sandstorms.
Realizing the problem, the Chinese government decided in 1962 to rejuvinate the forest.
Half-a-century later, the roughly 70-thousand hectares of forest is now home to more than a thousand species of insects, over 700 species of plants and over 400 different varieties of animals.
Shen Guofang is with the Chinese Academy of Engineering.
"The forest in Saihanba has gone beyond just repairing the ecology. It's now put the original natural conditions at a higher level."
To keep the 'greening' process going, aerial tree seeding is taking place in nearby Alxa League, a region in southern Inner Mongolia.
Wei Jianmin is the head of the aerial-seeding program.
"We've been able to create over 330-thousand hectares of forest via aerial seeding. The vegetation coverage has increased to between 30 and 50 percent in certian parts of Alxa, which is a significant increase from the 5 to 10 percent coverage in the region in the 1990's. We're also planting what's known as hedysarum scoparium. We've been putting these plants in since 2001. They've got a well-developed root system and are able to control desertification."
Tourists visit Saihanba national forest park in Weichang Manchu and Mongolian Autonomous County in Chengde, north China's Hebei Province, July 11, 2017. Saihanba is a combination of Chinese and Mongolian meaning "beautiful highlands". [Xinhua/Wang Xiao]
Big data is also being used in the region's environmental protection efforts.
M-Grass is a listed company that specializes in ecological restoration, seed technology and grass cultivation.
It's using space and remote sensing technology, as well as global positioning technology to identify and nurture grassland reconstruction around Inner Mongolia's regional capital, Hohhot.
Xing Qi is a director with M-Grass.
"Once we click at a location, we can see information about its ecological conditions, including its climate, soil, and topographic conditions. Based on this, and information on its native plants, we can work out technical ecological restoration plans."
Through the work being done in Inner Mongolia, which is marking its 70th anniversary this year, the region is becoming the frontline in the battle against desertification in China.
In restoring the local environment in northern Hebei and Inner Mongolia, the programs are also providing much-needed air quality relief in the Chinese capital region as well.