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China Letter-News and Human Rights

China human rights news with focus on the Uygur of Xinjiang, Tibetans and Tibet, Chinese mining workers, religion, corruption and censorship.

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Xinjiang Sandstorms

Experts say worst period over

Uighur Farmers battle recent sandstorm in Xinjiang China . Pic courtesy Xinhuanet "More sandstorms are likely to hit southern parts of Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region though the worst period is over". Xinhua.

Each year in the period from March to May, especially in April, China experiences incredible sandstorms that rise in the Taklamakan Desert in Xinjiang causing considerable disruption and damage to wide areas of China including Beijing.

So far this year Xinhua reports, China has experienced 17 sand drifting or flowing weather systems including one strong sandstorm, five average ones and 11 drifting or flowing sand phenomena.

A sandstorm between March 26-30, again according to Xinhua, delayed more than 1,200 flights including 130 flights in Beijing Capital International Airport with 20 others forced to land at airports in Tianjin, Zhengzhou, Taiyuan and Dalian.

The linked reference source states that in recent years sandstorms have been occurring more frequently and with enhanced intensity. This is related to the frequent spells of unusual weather and the global climatic changes over the past century but is exacerbated by land desertification as a result of excessive cultivation of farmland, deforestation, over-grazing and excessive use of water resources.

"Severe sandstorms started to occur frequently after the 13th century, and increased rapidly after the 18th century. The number of severe sandstorms grew rapidly after the founding of the People's Republic of China. There were five in the 1950s, eight in the 1960s, 13 in the 1970s, 14 in the 1980s and 20 in the 1990s. The frequency is rising." us.tom.com

These severe sandstorms can be devastating. In 1961 a severe sandstorm hit Turpan in Xinjiang accompanied by a Force 12 wind and lasted for 13 hours, sweeping 85 percent of the crops of the county. Over 6,700 hectare of wheat ready to be harvested, which had a per-unit output of only 4.5 kg, and 2,667 hectare of cotton and 4,000 hectare of sorghum were blown away.

The two main areas where sandstorms cause serious problems in Xinjiang and China is in the Tarim Basin and Tulu-Bishan-Toksun Basin, through Gansu Province to northern Shaanxi and the Kalpin, Hotan, Minfeng and Geermu route in Xinjiang. Apparently severe sandstorms can continue for long periods in this area.

Further reading on China Sandstorms

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Xinhua Chinese News Article