Life & Style

Exodus

- CHEMI DORJE LAMA

Feb 9, 2019-

In China, nearly 20 percent of land is desert. Desert expansion has been a serious issue since the 1950s and desert regions have grown by more than 385,000 square miles—an area about the size of France and Germany combined.

As a result of a combination of poor farming practices, droughts and an increased demand for groundwater, desertification has arguably become China’s most important environmental challenge. As the effects of increasing desertification begin to appear, farmers are forced to abandon their lands, rural poverty is on the rise, and the intensity of sandstorms, which batter northern and western China each year, continue to intensify.

The Gobi is the fastest growing desert on Earth, transforming nearly 2,250 miles of grassland per year into inhospitable wasteland. This expansion eats away at space that was once fit for agriculture and creates unbridled sandstorms that batter cities near the edge of the desert, like the village around Donghu, Minqin which is no different to other villages close to the Gobi desert. The only source of water is groundwater, which is undrinkable because of the high amount of salt.

China’s desertification has forced hundreds of thousands of people to leave their homes.

As drought hits hard, many villagers migrate to bigger cities in hope of better future and livelihood. Homes are abandoned and only the old are left in the villages. It feels like time has halted in this place, as silence takes over and the sand slowly encroaches on their dreams and engulfs their lands.

Tiouyuan, Donghu is among many small villages near the desert where very few villagers live. Many have left their homes and migrated to bigger cities as drought has begun to hit the area hard.

 

Miss Pan Xiang, 52-years-old, is among few women living in the village. She misses her children who are studying in bigger cities

 

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Fu Cheng Wan, 52 years, takes a short smoke break after working in the fields from early morning. He works hard and dreams of settling in a bigger city like Shanghai. 

 

Farmers breed pigs as an alternate source of food for their livelihood, since surviving only on farming is uncertain as climate change impacts farming.

 

Many houses have been abandoned due to mass migration from the villages, as drought hits hard in the area and living conditions get harsher and drinking water becomes a bigger problem.

 

An old wooden wheel used for pulling water from the well is used to tie a electric pump placed inside deep underground to pull water for irrigation. Such deep water boring for irrigation is also one of the main causes of drought as the natural  process is hindered.

 

Villagers breed sheep as an alternate source of income for their families but over-grazing makes the area more prone to  desertification as the sheep eat the young grasses, which usually prevents desertification.

 

As the farming season arrives, villagers burn the left-over straw and use it as fertiliser on the farms.

 

Farmers gather to dig water pipeline for their farm. The government provides water for farming from a nearby rainwater  harvesting reservoir or from nearby villages, but the water is drying up quickly.

Published: 09-02-2019 12:48

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