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A Walk into the Dream of Sand Control Workers—BFA Media Club’s Visit to the Kubuqi Desert

Time:2016-08-31 11:45:47    Views:66979    Origin:Boao Forum for Asia

A Walk into the Dream of Sand Control Workers—BFA Media Club’s Visit to the Kubuqi Desert

People often associate the desert with scorching sunlight, sandstorms and slow-moving caravans, looking at it as a zone uninhabitable by humans and distant from their life. It is when they are struck by a sandstorm that they begin to realize that the desert is part of their life—in an unpleasant way. However, the desert usually hosts an abundance of natural resources and can be turned into a treasure box if it is properly tamed and utilized.

As the 7th largest desert in China, Kubuqi is also the closest desert to Beijing. In Mongolian, Kubuqi means bowstring. In fact, if we compare the nearby 350-km section of the Yellow River to the arc and the Kubuqi desert to the string, we will see a gigantic bow formed on the ground. In China, a privately-owned company named China Elion Resources Group (Elion) has been committed to ecosystem restoration and environmental protection for over 20 years by transforming deserts into sources of green energy and ecological habitats.

Inspired by Elion’s green dream, the BFA Media Club organized 30 members from 23 media outlets for a visit to the Kubuqi Desert on August 26 and 27, in order to experience how people live in deserts, how deserts can be turned into sources of energy, how agricultural techniques are applied in deserts and how deserts are tamed. This visit is the first BFA Media Club event organized outside Beijing.

Within the two tightly scheduled days, the participants experienced the “water steam” tree-planting method and visited an ecological solar power generation plant, an ecological health industrial park and a residential community. Urban people can hardly imagine how challenging it will be to do even a small bit in a desert. However, you will be handsomely rewarded by nature if you are committed. What we saw was not only a miraculous desert transformation that has produced clean energy, quality medicinal herbs and delicious organic vegetables and fruits, but also, more importantly, the improved standard of living for local people.

After a seven-hour journey, we finally reached our destination base in the Kubuqi Desert, where a large swathe of desert has been transformed into an oasis filled with green plants, including barren-ground willows, juniperus sabina and populous euphratica trees as well as Russian olives. Despite the harsh environment, these green plants exhibit great vitality—on continuous sand dunes and along winding roads. The crystal clear Qixing Lake is like a jewel embedded in this desert, with water birds swimming in it—a scene that makes you almost forget that you are in a desert. We were told that lattices have to be used to fix seeds and aircrafts are used to sow seeds for grass, trees and medicinal herbs. All this is done to create black soil to cover the desert and permanently stabilize originally moving sand dunes. Besides, innovative technologies and strategies are also implemented in this miraculous transformation process.

There is also a spectacular endless array of solar panels, under which is growing Chinese licorice. Abundant sunlight and vast space in the desert provides an ideal place for solar power generation, while solar panels offer the shadow needed for the growth of the medicinal herbs, which can also help create job opportunities for local residents—a business model that creatively combines power generation, herb cultivation and animal farming.

There are also secrets behind tree planting in a desert. This visit also offered us a hands-on experience of the “water steam” tree planting technique invented by Elion. It uses a hollow steel tube as a water pump, under whose pressure water is directly injected into a sand dune to form a cavity where a plant can be grown. As a combination of planting and irrigation, this technique can lift the survival rate of plants above 80%. Under the guidance of local technicians, Media Club members also planted some seedlings in memory of this event in the Kubuqi Desert by following the steps of the “water steam” planting method.

Due to long exposure to sunlight, great diurnal temperature variation and the absence of pollution, vegetables and fruits grown in the desert offer richer and sweeter tastes. The local ecological health industrial park which produces organic vegetables and fruits has also created many jobs for local people. All Media Club visitors gave a thumbs up after tasting such vegetables and fruits.  

Sand control has not only improved the ecological environment, but has also helped lift local herdsmen out of poverty and brought positive changes to their lives. Elion also developed a new residential community for local migrants, where each family owns a separate home and yurt and is provided with the opportunity to learn diverse new skills. We also enjoyed a performance of court music—Guru Music, which is hailed as the “living fossil” of Mongolian classic music.

In the heart of each sand control practitioner, there is a desert filled with beauty and promise. After an exhausting day, we lighted a bonfire in the gentle night breeze under the starry sky. From time to time, we saw a star shooting through the sky. Such a beautiful night would never have been possible without the hard work of these sand control professionals. With our hearts filled with gratitude, we also pray that each and every one of us will show more care for our environment and cherish whatever is given by nature.