Green Corridor in the Desert

In 2006, the Shelter-forest Project for the Tarim Desert Highway, a joint project with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, was completed and became operational. The three-year project, involving a total investment of 218 million RMB, created a green corridor for the 562 kilometer-long highway across the Taklimakan Desert.

The Tarim Desert Highway was constructed in 1995. It is a vital traffic artery to develop the southern area of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and to exploit oil and gas resources in the Tarim area. The highway had been constructed with a mechanical sand-defense system which ensured a safe and smooth traffic flow in the early period. However, as time went by, the mechanical system became obsolete. To radically treat the sand problem and improve the environment, we launched an cooperation with the Chinese Academy of Sciences in 2003 to carry out the Shelter-forest Project for the Tarim Desert Highway.

The Shelter-forest Project is 436 kilometers long and 72-78 meters wide, covering a total area of 3,128 hectares with 20.74 million drought-resistant plants such as Chinese tamarisk, H. ammodendron and calligonum. We conducted pilot tests and successfully found a way to irrigate suitable plants with high salinity groundwater in the desert. In-situ water collection, dispersed water supply and drop irrigation via pipeline were adopted throughout the highway, and a number of major technical problems in planting and growing trees were solved. With these efforts, the survival rate of plants exceeded 80% in this extremely harsh climate.

The implementation of the Shelter-forest Project helped us to establish a relatively complete theoretical and technical system for the ecological sand defenses of desert highways, providing valuable experience for future large-scale shelter-forest engineering in desert areas.