This County In China Is One Of The Most Dangerous Places In The World

Desertification has occurred in many regions across the globe due to both human and natural processes. One of the greatest and most disastrous in recent history was the Dust Bowl in the U.S. during the 1930s. Excessive farming with little awareness or regard for the soil's ability to replenish itself led to massive erosion. Not only was the sandy soil free to move with the wind, but even rain cloud formation was consequently disrupted, furthering the drought dramatically, according to Gizmodo.

For decades, China has been dealing with a similar problem in the western parts of the country, especially Minqin County, where desert surrounds and squeezes the remaining oasis of habitability (via The New York Times). An initial increase in farming nearby led to a large amount of the Shiyang river being diverted from its normal path. Groundwater levels in Minqin relied upon its natural flow, and when they fell, the amount of freshwater and vegetation in the region fell, leaving residents with fewer crops while drought and sandstorms grew (via Worldcrunch).

Water management is key to restoring Minqin

As a short term remedy, the Chinese government evacuated many of Minqin County's 2 million inhabitants (via All That's Interesting). Despite the increasingly unfavorable odds as more and more soil turns to sand, farmers and other residents are still present and doing what they can to slow the desert's spread with government assistance (per The Guardian). Their efforts to restore the areas lost include redirecting the river's flow back into the area, hopefully rejuvenating groundwater levels. 

In order to ensure success, the government has heavily restricted water consumption by people and livestock — even minimal and lawful use of water can at times be deemed theft by local authorities (via Sixth Tone). Despite this purported abuse of power, water management is the keystone step in ensuring the success of subsequent measures, such as controlling further erosion by planting new vegetation like trees and grasses (via China Daily).