Plague On It!

Natural grasslands in China cover an area of 393 million hectares, taking up roughly 41.7% of the national territory, three times arable land and over twice woodland. 331 million hectares of the total are available for human use, accounting for 84.3% of the total.

In 2004, the total grassland area subject to insect pests and rodents in mainland China, especially in the provinces or autonomous regions of Qinghai, Tibet, Inner Mongolia, Gansu, Sichuan and Xinjiang, reached 68.87 million hectares, and the direct economic loss amounted to 6.198 billion yuan.

Rodent species causing the plagues included pikas, gerbils, Myospalax fontanieri, field mice and ground squirrels.

According to the Xinhua news agency, a plague of prairie dogs is currently threatening more than 70,000 sq km of grasslands in the northern Chinese region of Inner Mongolia.

The government has already spent 2 million yuan this year on the job of clearing the burrowing rodents from 1,300 sq km of land. ‘Though the area affected by the plague has fallen, it is still a serious problem,’ said the Xinhua report.

China is continuing the fight against severe desertification in Inner Mongolia, the result of years of drought and over-farming and the cause of sandstorms whose effects can be felt as far away as Japan.

(US$1=7.647 Yuan)

Xinhua News Agency

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