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China’s “Green Miracle”- Reforestation of Kubuqi Desert

Kubuqi Desert in Inner Mongolia of China, comprises of around 18,600 sq km of golden sand dunes that plunge south in an arc from the country’s Yellow River. Centuries of grazing had denuded the land of all vegetation, and the region’s 740,000 people were wallowing in isolated poverty.

But it is now improving. A Chinese firm Elion Resources Group in 1988 partnered with local people and the the government to combat desertification. Almost three decades later, one third of the desert has been greened. Special plants have been grown to grip the shifting sands and to prevent the dunes encroaching on farms and villages.

The cattle have returned, and secondary industries have sprung up, with tourists flocking to new locally-run hotels and restaurants, eager to explore the dunes on boards and buggies. The United Nations Environment Programme estimates the Kubuqi Ecological Restoration Project — to give the greening of the desert its formal name — to be worth $1.8 billion over 50 years.

Kubuqi’s transformation burnishes China’s credentials as an environmental leader at a time when Washington is retreating from its international commitments. When President Donald Trump refused to reconsider U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Climate agreement.

Chinese President Xi Jinping had already made that pitch when he become the first Chinese leader to address the World Economic Forum in Davos in January, calling the Paris Agreement “a responsibility we must assume for future generations.” China is the world’s largest renewable-energy investor (nearly $90 billion last year) and employs 40% of the sector’s global workforce, aiming for 13 million jobs by 2020. Today, five of the world’s top six solar manufacturing firms hail from China, where the cost of panels dropped 30% this year.

Kubuqi boasts China’s largest single-stage solar farm, boasting 650,000 fixed and sun-tracking panels, which together channel 1,000 megawatts of electricity into the national grid.

The Kubuqi project illustrates how private firms can tackle environmental degradation, boost livelihoods and safeguarding the planet — all while chasing profits for themselves. The scheme won Elion the 2013 Global Dryland Champion Award — a prize given out by the U.N. Convention to Combat Desertification — in recognition of the “tremendous impact” on local people’s lives.

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