Story Publication logo June 29, 2009

The Taklamakan Desert

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Desertification is one of the most important environmental challenges facing the world today...

The Taklamakan desert is a place of such epic proportions and intimidating size that its name in the local Uygur language translates as 'You can go in, but you will never come out'. After the great Sahara desert of northern Africa, the Taklamakan is the second biggest moving –sands desert in the world. Lying hidden underneath the immense sea of sand of the Taklamakan, lies the Tarim Basin oilfield. Covering 560,000 square kilometers, it is China's fourth largest oilfield with a reserve of some 16 billion tonnes. Apart from activity around the oilfields, the Taklamakan desert is a relatively lifeless place. The people of the Taklamakan, are mostly Uyghur, a Turkic ethnic group mainly found in Eastern and Central Asia, hence don't look stereotypically Chinese. As desertification becomes increasingly a national issue, the country may only need to look west to begin its search for effective ways to adapt to life in and around the moving sands.

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