How to protect the world's longest desert road from being buried by sand

27 abril 2008

The Tarim Desert Highway crosses the Taklamakan desert from north to south. The total length of the highway is 552km; approximately 446km of the highway cross uninhabited areas covered by shifting sand dunes, making it the longest such highway in the world. To prevent the road from being buried by sand, China authorities have built a 60-meter-wide tree belt along the route provided with a massive irrigation system which pump water for the vegetation.

The highway was built in 1995 to move oil from the Tarim Basin, China's largest inland basin. Though the highway was built using sand-control meshing, the most effective method a decade ago, many sections of the highway were buried by floating sand, which moves at an annual rate of five meters.

The building of the tree belt itself is a world's miracle. Currently, the protective belt has begun improving the partial ecological environment, playing the role of ecological prevention of sand. Up to now, a 72- to 78-meter-wide tree belt along a 436-kilometer highway has been built, covering a total area of 3,128 hectares.

The blue buildings that appear every few miles are house workers who maintain the greenbelt. There is a house of road workers every 4 kilometers. Each of the houses is guarded by a couple of isolated Chinese workers who live here for at least two years. They don't use to have contact with any person during this time.

Some two million rose willows, sacsaoul and buckthorn are planted along the highway every year. They were chosen from 50 tree varieties after a decade of experiments. Trees with small leaves and a maximum height of two meters have proved the most suitable for life in the desert as they lose moisture slowly and are resistant to arid conditions.

More info and sources: 1, 2, 3, 4 y 5 / Via: Pruned