Ordos’ experience: engaging the whole society in combating desertification and making local tree-planters more prosperous

Updated: 2017-09-28 (en.goordos.com) Print

“More than 30 years ago, when my generation were at a very young age, the ecological environment in Ordos was very adverse, because the city is located in a transitional zone connecting arid and semi-arid regions, having little rainfall and sparse vegetation.”

Shi Yanjie still remembers the scene she saw on her way to school when she was a kid. “On windy days, there was always lots of sand dust flying up in the air and the wind was so strong that people couldn’t even walk.” 

But now, looking down from Shi’s office in the city government building in Kangbashi District, Ordos city, people can see Genghis Khan Sculpture Square shaded by green trees and decorated with flowers. It’s hard to believe that people living here have experienced raging winds and sand flying all over the sky.  

As the vice mayor of Ordos who shares responsibility for agriculture, husbandry and forestry, Shi Yanjie was one of the people in charge of the organizing committee of the 13th Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 13) to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).   

On Sept 11, at the opening ceremony of the COP 13's high-level segment, Chinese Vice-Premier Wang Yang made a keynote speech and praised Ordos as a “famous modern city”.

“Holding this conference is a great boost to Ordos city’s brand awareness and reputation,” Shi said.

Shi Yanjie said that during the conference 196 parties and over 20 international organizations gathered in Ordos and saw the achievements it has made over the past decades. Most of the attendees were researchers in the field of desertification control. The clash of their ideas offered excellent suggestions for combating desertification in Ordos, Shi added.

Shi said that having held the COP13 conference is an opportunity for Ordos, through which she hoped the idea of green development will be better applied to people’s daily lives so that desertification control and ecological construction will become the agreed approach of the whole society.       

During the conference, a total of 112 countries pledged to set voluntary targets to achieve "Land Degradation Neutrality" by 2030. The Ordos Declaration, which stresses the importance of government leadership, multiple-party cooperation, and the involvement of the private sector, civil organizations, women and youth, was also passed. The declaration also acknowledges the close connections between combating desertification, containing land degradation, easing drought crises, alleviating the harm of sandstorms, fighting climate change, protecting biodiversity and maintaining food security. It pledges to strengthen desertification control, contain land degradation, and restore and rebuild the degraded ecosystem.     

Shi Yanjie insisted that both ecological efficiency and economic effectiveness are important in combating desertification and afforesting land. By developing industry from an ecological perspective and relying on ecological forest projects and it’s sand and tree resources, Ordos can advance desertification control and poverty alleviation, which in turn promote ecological construction.

Ordos has established 1.73 million hectares of forestry and sand industrial bases, more than 80 related enterprises, two national level and 14 regional level leading forestry companies and over 20 ecological tourist zones, achieving an organic unity of ecological efficiency, social effects and economic effectiveness.

In 2016, the output value of forestry and sand industry in Ordos amounted to 0.67 billion US dollars and the resultant per capita benefit for farmers and herdsmen was about 407 US dollars, accounting for 17% of their total yearly income.   

“On the national level, forest ownership reform has been discussed. In my opinion, when developing the forestry industry, both ecological efficiency and economic effectiveness should be stressed. Tree-planters must get benefits when eco-efficiency has been obtained. At present, processing and using salix psammophila is encouraged in China as a combination of ecological practice and industry. Growing trees is not the end; it should be followed up with industrialization. How to make tree-planters rich? How can we find a driving force to boost continuous development? Those are our next challenges.”