Beijing [China], January 24 (ANI): The destruction of a forest in the arid northwest region of China to make vineyards has been condemned by Chinese environmentalists, warning it would cause an ecological disaster.
According to a report by the South China Morning Post, previous efforts by environmentalists to sue the winemakers have been stalled in the courts but last week the provincial authorities in Gansu said they would look into the destruction of the state-owned Yangguan Forest Farm, 60 km (37 miles) outside the ancient Silk Road city of Dunhuang after a newspaper report sparked a public outcry.
A report by Economic Information Daily published on January 20 had stated that the forest, which was planted in 1963 for protection of the area from desertification and sand storms, has in recent years shrunk from "just over 13 square km in 2000 to just over 3 square km".
The SCMP further stated that this episode follows a series of other ecological scandals in remote parts of China, including illegal mining in Qinghai province and waste dumping in Inner Mongolia.
Meanwhile, Economic Information Daily quoted Ma Dongyang, an official with Dunhuang's natural resources bureau, as saying that trees have been cut down as they were "damaged and unhealthy and that the logging had been approved".
Though the Yangguan Forest Farm staff have denied any mass logging nor increase in the area of vineyards, the former workers of the farm have said that the logs left at the site were mostly from healthy growing trees, the SCMP stated.
"When I heard about this, I was heartbroken and very regretful. I worked at Dunhuang over 30 years ago. The extent of the damage was not something I could have imagined," said Liu Dingzhen, an ecology professor from Beijing Normal University who have earlier worked in the region.
"If in the future they ban grapes from being grown there and try to rehabilitate the ecosystem, this recovery will take an extremely long time," he added. (ANI)