400 million individuals in China have been impacted by desertification over the past decade. Desertification in China has two primary causes. First, in the mid 1900s excessive farming began to cause soil degradation. In Naiman, desertification had turned 300,000 acres of grassland into desert by 2005. However, nowadays the bigger threat is climate change. Many areas, such as Inner Mongolia, receive 10% less rain and experience a higher average temperature of one degree Fahrenheit than they did in 2000. These two effects have caused the water table to fall. For example, farmers who used to have to dig 30-foot wells now are forced to delve 140 feet to reach water. This drop in the water table has caused the death of millions of trees, which help protect against desertification.
Since the 1960s there have been many attempts to stop and reverse desertification. Both the Chinese government and outside organizations spend billions each year planting trees to stop erosion. In fact, these programs had been so successful that some areas experienced a reversal in land degradation. For example degraded land in Naiman decreased from 733 square miles in 1985 to 463 square miles in 2005. However, recently climate change has begun to reverse this trend. Millions of these planted trees have died due to climate change. As a result, the government has implemented other policies to stop desertification. In many areas they have limited the number of wells farmers can dig. The Chinese government have also offered farmers thousands of Yuan per year to convert their fields into grassland and forest.
However, not everyone agrees on how to combat desertification. Some believe that planting trees will eventual lead to an increase in land degradation. These individuals argue that planting trees will only strain the ecosystem by further lowering the water table. They state that too much vegetation causes land degradation, so adding more will only worsen its effects in the long run. Also, the goals of the local and central governments often conflict on this issue. While the national government has implemented programs to protect the environment, local governments are primarily focused on developing their economy and increasing GDP. As a result, they encourage exploitation of natural resources, which often leads to desertification. For example, many towns encourage the development of coal mining, which consumes vast amounts of water. The fight against desertification is far from over, and its outcome will impact millions of individuals.