Authorities in China aim to halt the spread of the desert in Tibet by next year, hoping to stem the effects of years of mining, tree-felling and overgrazing, state media said on Thursday.
Desertification is spreading by 39,600 hectares (98,000 acres) annually in Tibet, an official at the regional forestry bureau was quoted as saying by the Xinhua news agency.
Sangye Drawa said Tibetan authorities were trying to curb the spread with afforestation programmes and by closing some grasslands to herders.
"By 2010, we hope to achieve zero growth in deserts and by 2020, half of the desertified land that can still be reversed will be fixed," he was quoted as saying.
Sangye Drawa said that desertified land, which currently covers 18 per cent of the Himalayan plateau, was caused by dry weather and a lack of forests, according to the report. He also attributed it to overgrazing, tree-felling and mining.
Tibet is not the only region in China to suffer from the problem -- the capital Beijing is plagued with regular sandstorms that scientists say are caused by desertification in the northern part of the country.