Sandstorm a Problem for Beijing

Almost every spring, Beijing, along with North China in general, suffers from sandstorms, when strong wind blows dust all over the city and the region.

The dust comes from the deserts in West China and the Mongolian steppes north of China. Continued erosion and loss of grass-covered topsoil has led to the deterioration of the problem. In the spring of 2006, seventeen sandstorms struck China.

China is a large country, roughly the same in size as the United States. Deserts, however, account for about one-third of China’s national territory.

In the large scheme of things, sandstorms have always been part of life in Central and East Asia. It was so even long before the onset of human civilization in the region. The vast loess plateau located west of Beijing is essentially silt soil that wind moved and deposited there over God-knows how long a period of time.

On smaller scales, some other large countries also suffered from severe sandstorms. In the 1930s, excessive use of land turned a big of Southwestern U.S. into the so-called Dust Bowl. In the 1960s, the Soviet government''s effort to expand cultivated land in Russia also led serious land erosion.

Sandstorms in North China take place mostly in March and April, sometimes in May. For this reasons, people do not expect this particular problem will affect the Beijing Olympic Games scheduled for mid-August.

Olympics aside, the Chinese government has recognized the gravity of the environmental problems that China faces today. Among other measures, in the past decades the government pushed the effort to plant trees along China’s northern border, to build up what is called the Green Great Wall.

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