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Drought and desertification worsening in Tibet: Chinese state media

June 22, 2009

Saturday, 20 June 2009, 3:01 p.m.
Desertification is spreading by 39,600 hectares (98,000 acres) annually in Tibet/AFP
Dharamshala: Rising temperature and deforestation have intensified drought and desertification in Tibet, China's state media said.
Drought conditions have hit 33 counties in five of the six prefectures in Tibet, affecting 15.3 percent of the Tibetan plateau, Xinhua said, quoting the regional drought relief and flood control headquarters.
According to the report, the drought has also killed 13,601 head of cattle.
Nine meteorological centers in Tibet have not seen substantial rain for 226 consecutive days, Zhao Yiping, head of the Tibet Regional Meteorological Bureau said.
The drought has also been worsened by higher than normal temperatures. Tibet has experienced temperatures 0.4 to 2.3 celsius degrees higher than normal years, Zhao said.
The report by Xinhua news agency follows a warning by China's top weather official last month that Tibet faced a growing threat of drought and floods as global warming melts its glaciers.
The head of the China Meteorological Bureau, Zheng Guogang, last month was quoted by Xinhua as warning that global warming was accelerating glacial shrinkage, causing Tibet's lakes to swell.
"If the warming continues, millions of people in western China will face floods in the short term and drought in the long run."
Moreover, desertification is spreading by 39,600 hectares (98,000 acres) annually in Tibet, an official at the regional forestry bureau was quoted as saying by the Xinhua news agency.
Sangye Drawa said Tibetan authorities were trying to curb the spread with afforestation programmes and by closing some grasslands to herders.
"By 2010, we hope to achieve zero growth in deserts and by 2020, half of the desertified land that can still be reversed will be fixed," he was quoted as saying.
Sangye Drawa said that desertified land, which currently covers 18 percent of the Himalayan plateau, was caused by dry weather and a lack of forests, according to the report.
He also attributed it to overgrazing, tree-felling and mining.
--Compiled from AFP and Xinhua reports
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