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Beijing's nearest desert is within a crow-fly distance of only 70 km northwest of Tian'anmen Square, and this desertified area, located in adjacent Hebei Province, is still "walking" or rather advancing on the capital.
Although Beijing residents have over the last two years planted the sand dunes in trees, many of these trees have withered.
According to farmers in the nearby Longbaoshan Village, only the trees in the tourism region have survived and it costs locals a lot to water them.
Wang Yongxian, head of the village said, "Last year more than 20,000 trees were planted in the village with an investment from Coca Cola. Nevertheless, only 20 to 30 percent survived because of the drought."
"A sand control project, covering 133 hectares, was launched in the village this year. But the farmers are not contributing much to the project," noted Wang, "It's not because of their unwillingness to control the desert, but because they are too poor to do so."
If the farmers plant a tree in Beijing, they can earn three to four yuan (nearly half a U.S. dollar), almost ten times what they can earn from planting a tree in or around their villages.
In spite of some trees Beijing residents have planted in the desert, they do not plant enough to deal with the serious situation, said Wang.
Hebei is one of China's northern regions that suffers a great deal from severe desertification. With a desertified area of 1.7 million ha, it has about one tenth of the land being affected to varying extent. In some areas of the province, desertification is expanding at an annual rate of over 4 percent.
Chinese government leaders have called on Hebei to rein in desertification in the areas around Zhangjiakou and Chengde citiesto the north of the Chinese capital as they have become a major source of the Beijing spring sandstorms.
To curb environmental deterioration, Hebei province has beefed up its efforts in afforestation and sand control, combined with efforts to relieve poverty in the area.