China : The wrath of the yellow dragon

Photography : Eléonore HENRY DE FRAHAN     Texts : Aude RAUX    

In Spring, with each sandstorm, grains of sand are deposited on Longbaoshan. Relentlessly.
Zhang Ming avant de se rendre au champs. Longbaoshan, Chine, mars 2006.
In order to stay in the village, Weifengying Li and his wife have begun raising ducks.
In Spring, every morning at 7, Weifengying Li leaves to dig holes for planting trees on the land at the foot of the Great Green Wall. The government job pays 30 yuan, or 3 euros, per day.
China is one of the countries hardest hit by desertification. A fourth of the territory is now affected and the desert is gaining more than 2,500 square kilometers each year.
Beginning in the month of March, huge sandstorms hit Longbaoshan, forcing herders to abandon their flocks and farmers to abandon their fields. The "wrath of the yellow dragon" is what they call the sandstorms in China.
To fight the advancing desert, the government has launched the “Great Green Wall.” The goal is to plant vast expanses of trees and shrubs stretching from the outskirts of Beijing to the borders of Inner Mongolia.
“These sandstorms are an extreme demonstration of the ravages of erosion in China. It’s a phenomenon that results not only from human activity, but also from global warming. Unfortunately, the deficit of rain due to atmospheric pollution is likely to worsen. When the wind carries off the sand dust, when the particles fall they create an impact that contributes to erosion because they tear out roots and grasses.” Michel Ayrault, CNRS researcher.
“The wrath of the yellow dragon” is how the Chinese refer to the sandstorms.
China is one of the countries hardest hit by desertification. A fourth of the territory is now affected and the desert is gaining more than 2,500 square kilometers each year.
Beginning in the month of March, huge sandstorms hit Longbaoshan, forcing herders to abandon their flocks and farmers to abandon their fields.
Beginning in the month of March, huge sandstorms hit Longbaoshan, forcing farmers to abandon their fields.
The 30-meter-high sand dune is now less than 70 meters from the first houses of Longbaoshan, and is advancing at an average rate of 8 to 9 meters per year.
“Because of the drought, nothing grows here. We rely on the sky but it only rains sand.” Dehai Li, inhabitant of Longbaoshan
When a sandstorm begins, Longbaoshan’s inhabitants take refuge in their homes. But they can never get away from the grains of sand that infiltrate endlessly. Here, Weifengying Li’s mother, age 68
When a sandstorm begins, Longbaoshan’s inhabitants take refuge in their homes. But they can never get away from the endlessly infiltrating grains of sand. Here, Weifengying Li’s mother, age 68, surrounded by her family on the kang, the traditional bed of northern China.
The village’s only school has 70 uniformed pupils.
Of the 900 inhabitants Longbaoshan once had, 200 have left in the last fifteen years to live as exiles in the capital.
Eight-year-old Dang Guo Qing Li’s father went to work in Beijing in 2002, and his mother left to join him three years later. His grandfather, who stayed in Longbaoshan, takes care of him now.
“The government is conducting a policy of rural migration, offering peasants a new life.” Wang Tao, director of the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ research institute on arid regions
According to the Chinese Academy of Meteorological Sciences, whereas in the 1950s a yearly average of five “black winds” (a sandstorm during which visibility is less than 200 meters and the wind speed is above 20 meters per second) were recorded, that figure has doubled since the year 2000.
Eight-year-old Dang Guo Qing Li’s father went to work in Beijing in 2002, and his mother left to join him three years later. His grandfather, who stayed in Longbaoshan, takes care of him now.
Au pied de la dune, Weifengying Li ramasse du sable à la pelle pour son élevage de canards.
Longbaoshan, Hebei Province. 50 years ago Hebei was reclassified from a semi-arid to an arid zone. Mr. Li Ze, 70 years old, is working in his field to plant some beans.
“For the past 50 years, we have seen increasing in temperatures and diminishing precipitation. The situation is especially dramatic in Hebei, where we have been reclassified from a semi-arid to an arid zone.” Sun Baoping, professor at the Beijing Forestry University and expert advisor to the Ministry of Water Resources
To fight the advancing desert, the government has launched the “Great Green Wall.” The goal is to plant vast expanses of trees and shrubs stretching from the outskirts of Beijing to the borders of Inner Mongolia. Longbaoshan, Hebei, China
China is one of the countries hardest hit by desertification. A fourth of the territory is now affected and the desert is gaining more than 2,500 square kilometers each year.
Another villager seeking exile in Beijing: Dang Jin Liang sets off for the capital in search of work.
Little Dang Guo Qing Li’s parents work long days in the city’s kitchens and construction sites.
Dang Guo Qing Li’s father, also an exile in Beijing.
Dang Jin Liang and her husband, exiles together in Beijing.
Every spring, storms sweep sand from the Gobi Desert to Longbaoshan and then Beijing. For days on end, the Chinese capital is covered in a dense fog and experiences dangerous peaks in pollution
Every spring, storms sweep sand from the Gobi Desert to Longbaoshan and then Beijing. For days on end, the Chinese capital is covered in a dense fog and experiences dangerous peaks in pollution