Just after the Grain Rain (the 6th solar term), the southern margin of the Taklimakan Desert in Xinjiang is turning green. White poplar trees stretch to the sky, sprouting tender shoots. Ammodendrons and red willow trees grow like green umbrellas. Between the woodlands, wheat fields revive, paving their way like a green carpet. In last year alone, the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps planted 412,600 mu of tress; set apart 851,000 mu of hill region including sand-covered areas for tree growing; and turned more than 1,500 mu of wasteland into an oasis.
The Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps set up campsites mostly in deserts such as the Gobi; on saline beach areas experiencing water scarcity; on lands experiencing serious salinization; and in areas where vegetation is scarce or those with an extremely rigorous ecological environment. Corps members are both defenders of the land and protectors of the land’s ecology. Firmly keeping in mind the tasks of “opening up uncultivated land and safeguarding the border;” Corps members have improved the ecological environment and promoted harmony between man and nature, so as to ensure sustainable development.
For a long time, the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps gave top priority to agriculture, over forestation and grass planting. Now, it places agriculture after forestation and grass planting. This is more than a change in word order. It is actually a change in production and construction concept. Constructing a “net of farmland and forests” is one of the measures taken. By using a combination of arbor trees, shrubs and grass; and weaving the three into forestation areas, regiments of the Corps gradually expand the green edge to the hinterlands of desert.
The No.121 Regiment of the No.8 Division of XPCC is stationed in the southern Junggar Basin. In only one winter, the Regiment grew a 35km long and 22m wide “harvest forest,” and pushed forward the edge of green land by more than 10 km. The No.13 Agricultural Division, Haungtian Farm, set an example for forestation. During the week around the Arbor Day, 100 trees per capita on the Farm were planted. Within the farmland, the regiment grew greenbelt. In the areas with serious sandstorms, it unfolded large-scale forestation projects for wind protection and sand fixation. The Corps also manage protection of 1,213 mu of desert vegetation by setting up oasis ecosystems, integrating artificial plantation with natural resources and desert vegetation.
Water is indispensable in both agricultural irrigation and ecological protection in arid areas – in particular desert areas. To this end, the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps initiated water conservation projects. As of April 18, the Corps irrigated 4.4 million mu of land with water saved on a daily basis. The Agricultural No.8 Division, Shihezi Farm, sent the water they saved by drip irrigation downstream to the Manas River, in order to expand the area of the lake in the Gurbantunggut Desert. Now, the wetlands of Manas Lake reach beyond 100 square kilometers. An on-site report said that Manas Lake is quite vast. Along the lakeshore, diversiform-leaved poplars grow vigorously. Groups of yellow antelope can often be found among the reeds.
The Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps successively disseminated regulations such as the “Desert Protection Convention”, the “Forest Protection Convention” and the “Sand Fixation and Forestation Convention;” so as to standardize and legalize the management of forestry resources, and create a complete sand-fixation and desertification prevention system. Moreover, the Corps also established a special Forest Public Security Bureau. In the past eight months, the security bureau has investigated 316 illegal cases, at an economic loss of 1.8 million yuan.
The growing “green area” in the Taklimakan Desert and the Gurbantunggut Desert in Xinjiang has gained much attention from environmental organizations in the United Nations. Recently, a letter was sent to the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps, requesting the “secret master plan” to subdue the sand devils (desertification).