Environmental degradation of China's western grasslands must be reversed to reduce the risk of sandstorms, says Jiang Gaoming in this article from China Dialogue.
Sandstorms are an increasing problem in China, blowing soil from the dry interior into eastern cities like Beijing and Shanghai.
But how can sandstorms be stopped? Contrary to current practice, protecting grass should be favoured over planting trees, argues Jiang. Grass is easier to grow and retains soil and water more effectively.
Degraded areas that are less accessible by road make up 90 per cent of land causing sandstorms. Yet they receive little attention because they are less visible to officials approving funding for sandstorm-control efforts, claims Jiang. Aerial sowing techniques could rehabilitate these areas.
Jiang also argues that existing programmes should improve local people's lives by ensuring that money given to sandstorm-control efforts gets to individual households.
Population density in arid areas is too high and damages the land further. More funds are needed to relocate scattered settlers into cities, says Jiang.
Finally, Jiang calls for China to restrict animal farming in the west, before the remaining grasslands are grazed bare.