China Environmental News Digest

Daily updated Environmental news related to China

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Herding ban in plain to protect environment

By Li Fangchao (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-02-23 05:34

HARBIN: The idyllic image of cows and sheep grazing leisurely in a part of Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province is set to be a thing of the past in a bid to improve ecological conditions.

The agricultural province is on its way to a total ban of herding on Songnen Plain, where the majority of the province's stockbreeding industry lies.

It has mapped out plans to gradually reduce the herding area on the stretch of land until a complete ban comes into force in 2008 to protect the ecological condition of the vast grassland.

Years of arbitrary use is creating huge sandy areas. About 200,000 hectares of grassland are facing the danger of total environment deterioration, according the grassland office of the Heilongjiang Provincial Stockbreeding Bureau.

"We realized that it is the time to let the grassland have a good rest, or risk losing it forever," said Wu Binsheng, an official from the bureau.

This year's goal is to ban herding on 70 per cent of the 1.86 million hectares of grassland on the plain.

Wu said that several pilot schemes in areas have achieved success in encouraging local farmers to enclose their animals, such as Daqing of the province, which is located in the centre of the plain.

"On one hand, it is conducive to environment protection, and on the other hand it is the sustainable way that we should adopt in the future," he said.

As a large agricultural province, Heilongjiang's plantation structure needs huge adjustment to fit in with the current development of the prospering stockbreeding industry, say farming experts.

The province's 1.2 million cows needs the yields of 160,000 hectares of ensile, but the province only has 100,000 hectares now.

"Planting ensile and other pastoral grass brings more economic benefits in the long run," said Zhang Yuexue, an expert from the Heilongjiang Agricultural Science Institute.

Zhang said that luckily the province has realized the problem and was encouraging more farmers to grow ensile with subsidies.

Ma Yingjun, a government official in Duer'bote County, Daqing, said Daguang Village where he lives, was nearly abandoned by all of its residents four years ago because of encroaching sand from too much herding.

"Before, we had to cover our heads to prevent the flying sand beating our faces on a windy day," he said, "Now we have the grass and trees back, and all the people back."

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