HOHHOT, May 25 (Xinhua) -- Efforts to prevent sand and dust storms in Beijing and its neighbor Tianjin have been more successful since the implementation of anti-desertification programs over a decade ago, according to the attendees of an ongoing three-day workshop concerning desertification and land degradation being held in north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.
About 178,000 people have been relocated from grasslands and forests near Beijing and Tianjin as part of regional authorities' anti-desertification efforts, and more than 100 million mu (6.7 million hectares) of forest has been planted in the region over the last 12 years, according to information released at the workshop.
The central government began working to control sources of sand and dust in June 2000 to prevent continuous sandstorms and dusty weather in north China. As of 2011, more than 100,358 mu of forest had been planted, according to statistics from the State Forestry Administration of China.
Monitoring data from eight sandstorm monitoring stations and 22 meteorological stations showed that 86 percent of the stations have registered decreases in sand and dust levels since the start of the project.
Bai Jianhua, head of the sand control and prevention bureau of the State Forestry Administration of China, said the project has improved north China's ecology, reduced the frequency of sandstorms and increased grassland and forest coverage.
"The project has not only improved the environment around Beijing and Tianjin, but also adjusted industrial structures in rural areas," Bai said.
Bai added that there are still challenges to face in preventing desertification, as large amounts of investment and new policies on developing related industries are still needed.