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Solving one problem by creating a bigger one: The consequences of ecological resettlement for grassland restoration and poverty alleviation in Northwestern China 2015

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Mingming Fan, Yanbo Li, Wenjun Li
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Modernization has been regarded as the best way to solve ecological and poverty problems in many arid and semi-arid areas around the world, but is inevitably accompanied by changes in land-use patterns that can lead to new socio-ecological feedbacks. How people and ecosystems of an area respond to such feedbacks determines whether the changes sustainable or not. In this paper, we describe resettlement of nomadic pastoralists in Alxa Left Banner of western Inner Mongolia. We identified the dominant biophysical limiting factor in this region (water resources), and used amount and efficiency of water use as indicators ofthe ecological impacts of pastoralism before and after resettlement.We also conducted semistructured interviews with households to collectinformation about household income, expenditures, and agricultural production risks caused by water shortages to analyze the impacts of resettlement on their livelihood. We found that resettlement greatly increased the usage of water resources, reduced the effi- ciency of water use, and exacerbated regional water shortages. Although household income increased after settlement, subsistence costs also increased because water shortages increased production costs and risks. Our results suggest that in this arid grassland area of China, ecological resettlement policy is ecologically and economically unsustainable, and may exacerbate local ecological and social problems.

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