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Chinese Trout Farm Helping Stop Desert Advance

Trout Water quality Sustainability +4 more

CHINA - In the Kumtag desert in Gansu Province, more than 600 tonnes of rainbow trout, a cold-water fish native to North America, are farmed and exported across China every year.

Two hours' drive from the oasis town of Dunhuangin, the fish farm was brought into existence by Bibo Company, which had been drawn to the area by the Dunhuang government's investment promotion plans, reports Channel News Asia.

In 2001, the company invested more than US$16 million in the fish farm, but the desert's extreme conditions made it difficult for construction.

"There are huge sandstorms in this area. In our other farm in Yundeng, we don't see such huge sandstorms. After we constructed buildings here, sandstorms covered up two floors of our buildings," said Wang Yongbin, Manager of Bibo Company.

"You could dig as deep as 20 metres into the ground and you wouldn't find water. We constructed a waterway to transport the water from the nearby glaciers to our ponds. We dug the ponds and treated the water. If we need more water, we increase the volume, and if not, we decrease the volume," he added.

Bibo Company exports more than 600 tonnes of rainbow trout across China every year.

Over the years, however, the company managed to halt the advance of the desert by planting trees. The waterways they built also help divert waters from flash floods.

"Fishes don't waste the water. If you grow crops like grapes or wheat, it'll use a lot of water, but fish don't. You just need the water to flow," Mr Wang explained.

"They call it efficient agriculture. The water that we use for the fishes can be used to grow grapes. It's a circular economy."

Given its success, the farm has been designated as a National Level Sustainable Development Experiment Zone. It also offers hope to areas affected by desertification, which is a big problem in the country.

More than 2.6 million sq m of land across China, or about a third of its territory, is classified as desert wasteland. In Gansu Province, the situation is worsening, with more than half of its land desertified. Still, Bibo's fish farm is thriving.

"We managed to stop part of the desert from advancing. We cannot stop our work, otherwise the desert would continue to advance," said Mr Wang.

"We also need to reinforce our waterways and ensure that they are not blocked, otherwise there might be a disaster if there is a flash flood again."