China has made consistent progress in reducing its land area affected by severe water and soil erosion in the past decade, according to the Ministry of Water Resources.
The total area of eroded land across the country had decreased to about 2.7 million square kilometers by 2021, down by 274,900 sq km from 10 years ago, Vice-Minister of Water Resources Zhu Chengqing said at a news conference organized by the State Council Information Office on Thursday.
China has a six-tier system to classify the severity of water and soil erosion, with "extremely severe" representing the worst, followed by "severe".
In 2021, about 18.9 percent of land plagued by water and soil erosion fell into the classifications of "severe" and "extremely severe", compared with 33.8 percent in 2012, Zhu said.
"The water and soil loss control work has effectively improved the conditions for agricultural production and the living environment in rural China, and thus boosted socioeconomic development," she said.
China has released a guideline to strengthen the conservation of water and soil to promote the construction of an ecological civilization, a concept promoted by President Xi Jinping for balanced and sustainable development that features harmonious coexistence between humanity and nature.
The guideline, released by the general offices of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the State Council early this month, details targets for strengthening water and soil conservation by 2025 and 2035.
By the end of 2021, 28 percent of China's land was affected by water and soil erosion to some extent. The country aims to see the proportion decrease to 27 percent by 2025 and to 25 percent by 2035, according to the guideline.
Wu Wenqing, the ministry's chief planner, has stressed the challenges in realizing the targets.
Almost 46 percent of the country's land troubled by water and soil loss is located in deserts and alpine regions with high altitude where there are not adequate conditions for treatment, he said.
With geographical and other natural conditions, as well as the country's technological capabilities brought into consideration, he said, China is only able to completely remediate about 19.4 percent, or 520,000 sq km, of the remaining area affected by water and soil erosion.
"This means that the remaining areas with water and soil erosion are all hard nuts to crack. It will be increasingly challenging to treat them," he said.
Wu noted forest and grassland with water and soil loss as one of the ministry's priorities in its endeavor to make the 2025 and 2035 goals a reality.
The ministry will strive to increase the vegetation coverage rate in forests and grasslands and enhance the capabilities of ecosystems in conserving water and soil, he said.