WASHINGTON, DC May 17, 2012. Today the World Bank Board of Executive Directors approved a loan of US$80 million to the People’s Republic of China to help control desertification and land degradation and protect farmland and infrastructure for the benefit of around three million people in the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region.
Desertification and degradation are among the major environmental issues that China faces today. Desertification and degradation are caused by the complex interaction of environmental and human factors over time. Environmental factors include a naturally dry climate, recurrent draughts, and specific topographic and geographic conditions, while human factors include poor land management, inadequate farming techniques, over-cultivation, overgrazing, misuse of water resources, and poor environmental and ecosystem management. Global climate change can be additional factor contributing to accelerated desertification and degradation.
Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region in the semi-arid northwestern part of China is suffering from desertification and degradation. Its desertification area is about 2.97 million hectares or about 57 percent of the total territory of the region.
The Ningxia Desertification Control and Ecological Protection Project aims to assist the Chinese government in its efforts to address and reverse desertification and degradation. The project will support desertification control, natural vegetation rehabilitation, and other ecological protection measures in Pingluo County, Lingwu City, Litong District, Qingtongxia City, Xingqing District, Yanchi County, and Zhongwei City of Ningxia. Specific project investments will include the: (a) the establishment of straw checker boards and indigenous shrub and grass vegetation cover to halt the movement of shifting sand dunes and prevent the desert’s encroachment on agricultural land, settlements and infrastructure; (b) protection and management of natural re-vegetation of degraded arid and semi-arid steppe and grassland areas, including supplemental shrub planting and vegetation restoration; (c) the establishment of multi-layer and multi-storey tree and shrub shelterbelts along roads, irrigation canals and around agricultural fields and fruit orchards; and (d) information and awareness campaigns for local communities to better manage grassland and steppe areas and applied research, training, field demonstration, and impact monitoring.
“Ningxia one of the poorest regions in China. The significance of this demonstration project goes beyond environmental protection and vegetation rehabilitation but also addresses critical needs of regional economic development, poverty reduction and the protection and improvement of agriculture and food production, and local livelihoods in general,” said Ulrich Schmitt, World Bank’s Senior Natural Resources Economist who manages the project.
The project will be implemented over a period of five years. It is expected to generate direct environmental benefits for around three million residents in the project areas and to protect a number of key infrastructure facilities on the eastern bank of the Yellow River. Since the project areas are also located in a wind corridor affecting major parts of northern China and have been identified as one of the major sources of sandstorms, a much larger number of people living as far as Beijing or Tianjin will indirectly benefit from the project.
Total project cost are US$113.75 million of which US$80 million will be financed by the World Bank and US$33.75 million will be financed by the government’s counterpart funds.