China Coping with "Ecological Disaster Areas"

Climate change and irrigation schemes are drying up rivers and speeding the spread of deserts, leading to plans to move tens of millions of people.
May 22, 2009, 8am PDT | Michael Dudley
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"[M]illions of Chinese eco-refugees...have been resettled because their home environments [have] degraded to the point where they were no longer fit for human habitation. The government says more than 150 million people will have to be moved. Water shortages exacerbated by over-irrigation and climate change are the main cause.

The problem is most severe in the north-west, where desert sands are swallowing up farmland, homes and towns. The Yellow river is diverted more than 62 miles (100km) to replenish dried-up reservoirs and aquifers in Minqin, where the population has swollen from 860,000 to 2.3 million over the last 60 years, even as water supplies have declined. It is not enough.

The government pays many farmers to cease production and has relocated thousands of others...out of the worst affected areas. The government has given [them] a new home and land, but the desert winds still howl and [the] fields are bordered by sand dunes. Workers in the fields wear masks to protect their faces from the dust storms that whip in from the dunes."

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