With desertification threatening thousands of acres of land, Chinese officials have announced the forced relocation of more than 10,000 people.
"As the desert closes in, this community has been told to leave, so that their fields can be replanted with native grass. Local authorities say this will revive the parched land and halt the sand dunes, and have promised new land and housing to villagers. The forced move is an admission that China's grandiose plans to turn its arid land into farms have run dry."
"But with China's average annual land loss of about 950 square miles to desertification, according to researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, in addition to vast swaths of land turned over to industry and housing, the amount of farmland available to feed a large population is being pinched."
"In all, more than 10,500 residents of Minqin County in northwest Gansu Province, along the ancient Silk Road, are due to be relocated over the next three years."
"It's a tactical retreat after decades of cropping that exhausted scarce water resources. What matters now, say experts, is preventing this and other marginal land from turning into vast dust bowls where nothing grows."