A report by the State Forestry Administration revealed that 28 per cent of China’s land mass was desert, China Daily reported. Desertification affected 2.6m sq km of China at the end of 1999, 52,000 sq km more than found by the first survey in 1994. The report said that 1.7m sq km of new desert had been created by human activity such as overgrazing and deforestation, while climate variation and natural phenomena were blamed for the expansion of existing deserts.
Desertification is most severe in the west and north-west of the country as well as in Hebei province. The week before this report appeared, a survey by the Ministry of Water Resources found that soil erosion was affecting 3.67m sq km of land, with most of the damaged areas in the Yangtze river valley.