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Arab nations and China to launch drought research centre 

Drought and desertification in China Oriental Image via Reuters Connect
Methods such as sand barriers are used to combat desertification in China
  • Will oversee a range of projects
  • Location yet to be decided
  • Projects include planting 10bn trees in Saudi Arabia

Representatives from Arab countries, China and a string of UN agencies on Tuesday agreed to establish a research centre for drought and desertification. 

The China-Arab International Research Centre for Drought, Desertification and Land Degradation will be built in an as yet unnamed location by China’s National Forestry and Grassland Administration and the Secretariat of the League of Arab States.

It will focus on ways to combat desertification, an issue that the UN says affects 3.2 billion people worldwide.

The parties signed a memorandum of understanding on Tuesday to establish the centre, according to UAE state news agency Wam.

The signatories also launched the first wave of collaboration projects to be overseen by the centre, including a plan to plant 10 billion trees across Saudi Arabia and an eco-solar desert control engineering project in the kingdom. 

The agreement is the next step of a commitment made between China and Arab nations in December, when China first proposed building the research centre at the China-Arab States Summit in Riyadh.

The pledge was signed during the Ninth Kubuqi International Desert Forum at the weekend. Kubuqi is a desert within the Ordos Basin in northwestern China, under the administration of Inner Mongolia.

UN deputy secretary-general Amina Mohammed said during the forum: “I had the privilege of visiting the extraordinary landscapes of the Ordos region and witnessed first hand the remarkable socioeconomic and ecological restoration, an inspiring example for other regions struggling against land degradation, desiccation and decimation.” 

UN deputy secretary-general Amina Jane Mohammed Reuters
UN deputy secretary-general Amina Mohammed called work in the Ordos Basin an ‘inspiring example’ in the fight against drought and desertification

Mahmoud Fathallah, director of the Department of Environmental and Meteorology Affairs of the League of Arab States, was quoted by Wam as saying that expanding scientific research is crucial to combating desertification. 

He said the Arab League is working with China to facilitate exchange experiences with Chinese researchers. 

Zoljargal Sainbuyan, senior international cooperation officer for Mongolia’s National Forest Agency, said: “China is one of the leading countries in desertification control and dust storm reduction and the country has a wide range of technologies that can set examples for Mongolia and the rest of the world.”

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