Xinjiang’s battle against desertification pays off

URUMQI: “I’ve heard about the legend that claims a desert poplar will stand tall for another 1,000 years after it dies. But I never expected to see them come back to life with my own eyes,” Mawlan Mamat, a Uygur desert and forest ranger in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, told Beijing Review.
Mamat’s eyes lit up when talking about his first time seeing the withered Euphrates poplars beginning to sprout new leaves two years ago in the region’s Taklamakan Desert, China’s largest desert and the world’s second largest shifting-sand one.
For roughly three years, he has helped orchestrate the annual irrigation of the wild poplar tree forest at the Xiahe forestry farm in Bachu County, where wild poplar trees cover some 210,667 hectares, in an attempt to rehabilitate the area’s fragile ecosystem.Locals there have long been living with the desert and the runoff of the Yarkant River is the main water source nurturing the area. But the seasonal river flows are extremely uneven—large flows occur in summer, with the volume in June, July and August accounting for more than 65 percent of the annual water volume, while smaller flows occur in winter.
The Yarkant River basin is one of the main areas featuring Euphrates poplar forests in Xinjiang. However, in the river’s lower reaches, these forests were parched for six decades because of excessive water consumption by agricultural development along the riverbanks.
In 2016, local water resources departments launched an annual flood control project to divert the river’s flow during the flood season to those dry areas.
–The Daily Mail-Beijing review news exchange item