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arcadeoneup|Across China: China's anti-desertification practice amazes international students


International students of Ningxia Medical University learn to pave straw checkerboards at Baijitan national nature reserve, northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, June 14, 2024arcadeoneup. (Xinhua/Liu Hai)

YINCHUAN, June 17 (Xinhua) -- Browsing through photos taken recently during a trip to Baijitan national nature reserve in northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, Richard Djurist couldn't help but marvel at China's painstaking efforts in combating desertificationarcadeoneup.

"I've been here twice, but the story that three generations took about 70 years to turn a bare desert into a green land still amazes me," said 32-year-old Djurist, a Tanzanian student at Ningxia Medical University.

Desertification, often likened to the cancer of the earth, is a global concern that troubles over 100 countries and regions in the world. China is among the countries most severely impacted by desertification. Ningxia is surrounded by desert on three sides. Baijitan, edged by Maowusu, one of China's major deserts, is one of the hardest-hit places, highly vulnerable to sandstorm catastrophes.

Over the past seven decades, with unremitting efforts by local people and volunteers, 680,000 mu (about 45,333 hectares) of trees have been planted, raising the local forest coverage rate to 41 percent. The afforestation has curbed the expansion of the Maowusu Desert and become a miracle in the worldwide history of sand control.

"There are no more deserts left to be restored in our area. If it weren't for this well-preserved desert serving as a reference, few would believe that a place that was once described as a 'land without birds in the sky and grass on the ground' could become the oasis it is today. I myself wouldn't buy it," joked Yang Lijun, director of the nature reserve.

The nature reserve now serves as a demonstration center, welcoming over 300 visiting groups every year, many of whom come from overseas.

Djurist is among a team of 25 foreign students from over 10 countries at the international education school of Ningxia Medical University that visited Baijitan ahead of the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, which fell on Monday this year.

"The tour has almost become a tradition, through which we hope they could understand the significance of ecological protection, and China's resolutions and contribution to global anti-desertification," said Shan Bin, head of the school of international education.

Djurist has, through the two trips, grown from a green hand into a skilled desertification fighter.

"When they taught us the grass fixation method to prevent sand from moving last time we came here, I couldn't do it right. But this year I can even teach my partners," Djurist smiled. "When I go back to my country, I can share my experiences from here."

For Maha Dillibabu, from India, this is her first time being so close to a desert. Instead of wearing a hat or mask to hide from the baking summer sun, she totally threw herself into the fun of the sand.

"I'm so excited to see this kind of desert," said the 19-year-old young woman, adding that she anticipates embarking on more adventures during her studies in China.

Dillibabu's reaction also echoes the approach by Ningxia in recent years to exploring the desert from an alternative point of view, such as tourism.

Having been in Ningxia for 10 years, Djurist traveled a lot and his most impressive tour was the Shapotou National Reserve, about 200 km from Baijitan.

Shapotou is in Ningxia's Zhongwei City, where the Tengger Desert and the Yellow River, China's second-longest river, converge. In recent years, it has accumulated rising fame as an entertainment complex, offering fresh and stimulating options for desert-themed activities.

From camel rides, sand dune buggy racing, to sand surfing, Shapotou draws millions of visitors every year.

"My friends and I enjoyed a lot of experiences together, and it's really thrilling when you go up and down in cars inside the desert," said Djurist. "When you saw foreign faces from Europe or Africa enjoy the scenery and take photos, you might think maybe it's somewhere in areas like Dubai."

Having seen the success of the Chinese prescriptions in treating the deserts, Djurist lauded China's modernization as one that "creates harmony between people and nature."

arcadeoneup|Across China: China's anti-desertification practice amazes international students

"When nature is cared for, it will give something back to the people living close by," he said.

International students of Ningxia Medical University listen to stories on China's anti-desertification practice at Baijitan national nature reserve, northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, June 14, 2024. (Xinhua/Liu Hai)

A staff member introduces the practice of setting up straw checkerboards to international students at Baijitan national nature reserve, northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, June 14, 2024. (Xinhua/Liu Hai)

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