Feb 05, 2013

Southern Mongolia: Calls For Grassland Protection

Political advisors from Southern Mongolia called for more action to protect grassland, as the region is threatened by desertification.

Below is an article published by China.org:

Political advisers called for the protection of the Inner Mongolia autonomous region's grassland, the nation's largest green belt, which is threatened by desertification.

Relying heavily on animal husbandry, the region must put ecological preservation higher on the agenda when developing its grassland-related industries, Dong Hengyu, a political adviser, said at the annual meeting of Inner Mongolia's advisory body, which closed on Thursday.

Inner Mongolia had 76 million hectares of grassland by the end of 2010, or one-fifth of the nation's total, and 70 percent of the region's total land is covered by prairie.

"Protecting the grassland is crucial to ensure food security," said Dong, who is also the chief of the Inner Mongolia committee of the China Democratic League, one of the eight non-Communist parties of China.

"For example, grass is the major source of feed for cows in China. The quality of the grass is linked with the quality of milk products."

"Our country spends 60 million yuan ($9.64 million) every year to check dairy products, but it would be better to offer high-quality grass to solve the problem at source."

He also criticized the traditional notion of placing more importance on flocks and herds than on grassland.

Chen Xiufang, another adviser from the region's westernmost Alxa League, said the environment should not be put on the back burner as the region is developing its economy.

"We need a gold mountain," she said, referring to economic growth. "But we need more of the green land. Environmental protection and the economy have to be balanced."

She urged the government to deal with overexploitation of grassland.

Many farmers from neighboring provinces went to Alxa to dig up expensive herbal medicine, thus worsening the already fragile ecological system. Their number reached 200,000 in the league's Alxa Left Banner alone in 2012, she said.

From the 1950s until the turn of the century, grassland in Inner Mongolia had been decreasing due to desertification.

Since 2000, the region has regained at least 6.7 million hectares of grassland.

Inner Mongolia has been hit by continuous blizzards this winter and is suffering from the heaviest snowfall in decades with shortages of forage.

Dong appealed for more government subsidies to encourage growing grass. One mu (0.067 hectare) of grassland of fine breed now receives a subsidy of merely 10 yuan. He expects the figure to gradually reach 100 yuan and for some corn varieties, which are used in livestock feed, to be included in the subsidy list.

He also proposed to expand cooperatives where farmers and enterprises work together to upgrade mechanization, and lower production costs.