What started out as that "other" Wall of China has finally come to fruition after suffering a series of major setbacks. The Green Wall of China, as it's been dubbed, is in essence a living wall composed of trees, shrubs and grass that was built in Taipusi, in Inner Mongolia, to block off the Gobi desert and to curb sandstorms blowing over northeast Asia into the United States. Officials also hope to tie it in with their renewed environmental push for the Beijing Olympic Games, which will be held in the summer of 2008."We are pretty confident it will be effective," Hu Cun, Inner Mongolia's vice director of forestry, told a group of journalists invited from Beijing. "Already the number of sandstorms has been reduced," he said, pointing out that the number had fallen to zero this year from 18 in 2001, a figure that has been contested by scientists who claim that 4 sandstorms were recorded in Beijing this past March alone.
In 2001, a team of U.S. scientists determined that sand from the Gobi desert that was pushed into the jet stream during storms could travel across the Pacific and reach California.
A combination of factors including population pressure, over-grazing and an extended drought have contributed to the steady expansion southeast of the desert at a rate of up to 3 km a year heading directly towards Beijing. Cun hopes the wall will put an end to it for now.
"So far we have had some success," he said. "The desert is being held back. However, the ecology of this arid land is very delicate and the desert has been expanding for decades. We have just begun our job so we will need more time."
Many skeptics, such as Jiang Gaoming of the Institute of Botany at the Chinese Academy of Science, allege that the wall does nothing to address the root of the problem, unsustainable development and overpopulation, and that the 60 billion yuan ($7.6 billion) spent on the project was a waste of funds. "Do not get too excited by those recovered grasslands and forests you see alongside the highways. They only cover 10 percent of the total affected area. The other 90 percent causes the continuing sandstorms," said Gaoming.
The team of scientists that conducted the 2001 study were slightly more optimistic, saying that a great deal of progress had been made since their last visit.
See also: ::Blame it on the Sand: Beijing's Fake Rain, ::How Much Land to Power The Whole World with Solar?, ::Building a Green China, ::Taking the LEED in China: Beijing's Building Green, ::The Living Wall at the Green Living Show