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Reign of Sand: Inner Mongolia

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  • Reign of Sand: Inner Mongolia

    Many of the same conditions that produced the American Dust Bowl in the 1930s are being replicated in Inner Mongolia.
  • Update: 2010 Inner Mongolia

    A tourist tries on traditional Inner Mongolian dress on the degraded grasslands.
  • Videos from Inner Mongolia

    Dianhua Paper Mill discharged wastewater into a lagoon, killing sheep, sickening people, and damaging grasslands.
  • Photo Gallery: Reign of Sand

    A Mongolian herdsman shares a moment with his horse on a dry lake bed.
  • Featured Stories

    Dianhua Paper Mill discharged 2.5 million tons of untreated industrial wastewater every year into a lagoon that ruptured near an Inner Mongolian village. A group of herders brought suit and won a small settlement.
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"More than one billion poor and vulnerable people [are] living in the world's drylands, where efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals face particular challenges and thus have lagged behind," UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said last month on World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought.

Roughly 24 million live with the relentless wind, rugged cold, and ragged sand storms of China's Inner Mongolia, one of the largest grasslands on the planet. Some 400 million Chinese who live in other regions also are affected by the worsening spring sand storms and brutal water pollution caused by the government's aggressive work to recruit new industries to the dwindling sea of grass.

Drought decimated 4.5 million hectares in eight provinces in northern China in early 2009, according to McKinsey & Co. In August of the same year, drought caused the destruction of 10 million hectares of crops and dried up the drinking water of seven million people in Central and Northern China. Climatologists say that global climate change compounds the country's steadily increasing desertification.

In 2008 Circle of Blue released a major multi-media report on Inner Mongolia's struggle to survive. Our 2010 update shows, in many cases, conditions have worsened.

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