a chinese dust bowl


The k43-t69 train that follows China’s great northern steppes and the legendary Silk Road could be dubbed “the desertification train.” Travelling from east to west, from Beijing to Urumqi, it cuts through 3,343 kilometres of dusty grasslands, dried-up riverbeds, threatened oases, and deserts both ancient and new. A few hours after the train leaves Beijing, a lunar black mountain range welcomes passengers into a vast arid landscape.

Deserts cover 18 percent of China today. Of those, 78 percent are natural, while 22 percent were created by humans. Almost all of them lie along the k43-t69’s route through the provinces of Inner Mongolia, Ningxia, Gansu, and finally Xinjiang, at the edge of Central Asia.

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