BEIJING, June 18 (Xinhua) -- China has effectively contained desertification, with desert land area shrinking continuously over the past decade, according to the State Forestry Administration.
The area of formerly productive land degrading into deserts has been contracting at an annual average of 2,424 square km for over 10 consecutive years, said Zhang Jianlong, head of the administration.
That was in contrast to an annual expansion of 10,400 square km in the late 1990s, Zhang told a forum on Friday.
Zhang Yongli, deputy head of the administration, called the reverse of the trend a major transformation, but warned that the task ahead is not yet over.
Expanding deserts are a global problem. It is estimated that one-third of the earth is exposed to desertification, affecting millions of people worldwide.
China has spent decades curbing desertification through greening.
The country plans to rehabilitate 10 million hectares of desertified land in the next five years, turning more than half of the country's reclaimable deserts into green land by 2020.
Those who destroy the vegetation on desert land will be punished, and compensation mechanisms will be established to reward localities working toward combating desertification, according to the administration.