The Gobi Desert in northern China/southern Mongolia is approximately 1.3 million km squared. Approximately is the term used to describe this area because it happens to be growing and spreading south at a rate of 3,600km squared every year – turning otherwise habitable land into desert.
To combat this, China implemented an afforestation project in 1978 that is expected to be completed in 2050. Their aim is to turn these arid lands into areas fit for habitation and agriculture.
In the earliest stage, China passed a law that gave citizens a legal obligation to participate in regeneration project. This required its citizens over the age of 11 to plant no less than three trees a year.
In 2003 the government amped up its project to include aerial seeding and financial reimbursement to farmers, to plant trees in areas that required diligence and care. The system, costing the country $1.2 billion so far, has also been supplemented by a monitoring network with Korea and Japan.
According to a Chinese news report, the State Forest Administration has seen a steady decline in soil erosion.
“As a result, more than 20 percent of the lands affected by desertification in the project areas have been harnessed and soil erosion has been put under control in over 40 percent of the areas that used to suffer soil erosion in the past, according to SFA.”
Whilst further reports showed similar results, there were conflicting arguments stating that the trees were wilting in the arid heat.
However, China insists that their afforestation efforts are working and proving successful despite the damning reports and they intend to meet their target by 2050.