Greening the desert with wastewater in Xinjiang

URUMQI: As the weather gets warmer in the city of Altay in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, forest ranger Song Shaojian leads his workmates into the woods to clean up ditches blocked by fallen leaves and weeds, preparing for the upcoming spring irrigation.

Located on the outskirts of Altay, the forest was a desert eight years ago.

"Grass was scarce, let alone trees, because there was no water," said Song, who lives in a town about 5 km away from the forest.

To combat water shortage for desert afforestation, Altay, with a population of 100,000, turned its eyes to urban domestic sewage.

In 2012, the local government built a reservoir with a storage capacity of 5.19 million cubic metres of reclaimed water, which is processed from urban wastewater.

After an efficient sewage treatment process, reclaimed water that meets the irrigation standard will flow into the reservoir through pipes before helping irrigate trees and restore the ecology.

"We store reclaimed water in winter for irrigation in spring and summer. We reuse urban wastewater for desert greening in a sustainable way," said Liu Zhiqiang, head of Altay's environmental management demonstration park for reclaimed water reuse.

Thanks to the reclaimed water irrigation project, over 330 hectares of poplars were planted in the area between 2012 and 2015.

Song also embarked on his desert greening career there.

To help trees grow better, forest rangers like Song need to go into the forest every day to clear ditches and open pipes for irrigation.

At the same time, they also need to observe the growth of trees so that they can be treated early in case of pests and diseases.

The ecology in the desert sees a noticeable change.

"It was scorching in the summer. With trees gradually growing up, we now feel that the wind is weaker and it is not that hot during the daytime," said Song.

In 2016, the local government built a tree seedling cultivation base to go full steam ahead with its desert greening projects.

So far, over 860 hectares of trees have been planted in the desert.

"Now the most pleasant thing every day is to take a walk on the edge of the forest, enjoy the fresh air and appreciate the trees that I planted," Song said. - Xinhua/Asian News Network
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