YINCHUAN, June 22 (Xinhua) -- On the southwest edge of the Maowusu Desert, there lies a 60-km-long and 30-km-wide oasis. The verdure, which blocks windblown dust in Maowusu, is a testimony of the joint efforts in fighting desertification between people from China and the Republic of Korea (ROK) over the past decade.
Within the green belt is the Baijitan national nature reserve of Lingwu City in northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. Yet back in the 1950s, Baijitan, which adjoins Maowusu, one of China's major deserts, was still a barren land known for "no birds in the sky and no grass on the ground."
For more than six decades, with the unremitting efforts of experts, local people and volunteers, 42,000 hectares of forest have been built, raising the local forest coverage rate to 41 percent. The afforestation has effectively curbed the expansion of the Maowusu Desert and has become a miracle in the history of sand control in the world.
"We've made many friends by planting trees over the years. As the trees grow thick and tall, so is our friendship," said Wei Meng, deputy director of the Baijitan administration.
In the spring of 2013, a volunteer group comprised of several ROK entrepreneurs visited Baijitan and they were wowed by the remarkable achievements made by Chinese experts and local residents.
"Acknowledging that it is the artificial straw-checkerboard that helped stop sand encroachment and turn the desert into the green oasis, they were amazed and learned how to make the straw-checkerboard right away," recalled Huang Youfu, a retired professor at the Minzu University of China who accompanied the visiting group from ROK.
"They're really down to earth, not a mere pose," said Huang. Both parties soon agreed to build a forest as a way to extend bilateral cooperation. The woods was hence named "the China-ROK friendship forest."
Every year, volunteers from ROK visit Baijitan to plant trees and donate funds.
"Every time they come, they walk around the desert to see the changes in the forest, the trees planted in the previous year, and then continue to dig holes to plant new trees and experience making the straw-checkerboard," said Wei.
The once lifeless desert has now become home to numerous insects, birds and beasts. The latest data show that there are 311 species of wild plants and 129 species of wild animals in Baijitan.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and the ROK, and the friendship forest will soon be 10 years old. "We'd like to work together for another 10 years," said Wei.
"Anti-desertification and improving ecology are common issues for all humankind, and there is no national or ethnic boundary," said Huang. "This kind of folk friendship is very meaningful for the cooperation and development of both countries."