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East Asia Drying Out

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Issue: 18 Section: International News Geography: East Asia Topics: food security, climate change

May 28, 2004

East Asia Drying Out

(Jaju) Klaus Toepfer, director of the UN environmental watchdog UNEP, warned the world's environment ministers that dust and sand storm activity in Northeast Asia has increased five-fold over the past 40 years. The Global Environmental Outlook (GEO) Yearbook for 2003, launched at UNEP's annual conference in Jaju, Korea, describes stronger and more frequent storms that are plaguing northern China and Mongolia and spreading sand as far as Korea and Japan.

The Gobi desert, the yearbook reports, has expanded by over 52,000 square kilometers since 1994, devastating agriculture and threatening Beijing and the 400 million inhabitants of northern China. More than 30% of the country is now unsuitable for living due to encroaching desert.

Despite this, the GEO reports that satellite imagery indicates the world is experiencing an overall increase in the amount of plant coverage due to rainfall and temperature changes. Advances in farming techniques are partly responsible, but decreased cloud cover in the Amazon and increased monsoon activity in southwest Asia have caused a flourishing of plant life in these areas. Warming northern latitudes were also implicated as contributing to the greening effect.

» UNEP: North East Asian Dust and Sand Storms growing in scale and intensity

» BBC: World getting 'literally greener'

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The Dominion is a monthly paper published by an incipient network of independent journalists in Canada. It aims to provide accurate, critical coverage that is accountable to its readers and the subjects it tackles. Taking its name from Canada's official status as both a colony and a colonial force, the Dominion examines politics, culture and daily life with a view to understanding the exercise of power.

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