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Technology enhances Xizang's largest-ever afforestation project



China's Xizang Autonomous Region is undertaking its largest-ever afforestation project to green the mountainsides along the Lhasa River Valley, contributing to the ecological conservation of the Qinghai-Xizang Plateau, also known as the "Roof of the World."

The afforestation project in the mountains to the north and south of Lhasa was launched in 2021 and is set to be completed by 2030, covering an area of around 137,868 hectares.

Upon completion, it will add 49.8 million metric tonnes of water storage, sequester 230,000 metric tonnes of carbon annually and generate 190,000 metric tonnes of oxygen each year. These efforts will significantly improve the ecological environment around the regional capital city, Lhasa, making the city more livable.

One of the project's contractors is Xian Xiongqiang's company, which has undertaken a quarter of the work since 2021. One of the challenges he and his team have faced is transportation. As most of the afforestation areas are located at an altitude between 3,600 and 4,100 meters, Xian's company has used drones to lift and transport trees.

"When we began planting trees on a large scale on the northern and southern mountains, there were no roads there. The roads were built step by step by our workers and mules and horses. Drones boost work efficiency by about five to 10 times compared to animals. It basically takes less than one minute for the drone to reach an altitude of nearly 4,100 meters," he said.

A severe drought during the afforestation project has also posed challenges.

"2022 was the most challenging year. We encountered extremely dry weather. When we saw the trees turning yellow, we were very anxious. We climbed the mountain to check their conditions every day," Xian said.

Last year, an intelligent water system was installed on the mountains, allowing water to reach all areas of the afforestation project, Xian said.

"It mainly directs water from sources such as main canals and rivers to the highest reservoir on the top of the mountains, and then distributes the water from the reservoir to other storage tanks. So water storage work can be carried out non-stop every day," he said.

By the end of last year, trees had been planted across an area of around 25,333 hectares.

With the continuous improvement of the ecological environment, Xizang's forest coverage rate has increased to 12.31 percent, creating conditions for rare wild animal populations to recover.

The number of Tibetan antelopes has increased to nearly 300,000 from a low of less than 70,000 in the last century. Similarly, the number of black-necked cranes has risen to more than 10,000 from less than 2,000 in the last century.

(Cover image via CFP)

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