The grandeur of Dunhuang Grotto
Entrance of Dunhuang Grotto (photo by daweizao)
Exterior of Dunhuang Grotto (photo by daweizao)
Dunhuang Grotto (photo by daweizao)
Buddha lying with a peaceful smile
China Daily, January 8, 2007
Beijing, China -- The good news that the country's first postdoctoral student in Dunhuang Grotto studies graduated from Lanzhou University this week was immediately offset by the bad news that more than half of the frescoes in the 492 grottoes are under threat of being eroded by dust.
As a result of ongoing environmental degradation, stronger winds are bringing as much as 60 tons of dust per square kilometer every year. Some experts warn that some part of the cliff where the grottoes are located may collapse as a result of this wind and dust erosion.
Meanwhile, the environment continues to deteriorate.
The area of natural forests in Dunhuang has been reduced by 40 percent in the past several decades to only 87,000 hectares, while the area of grassland has fallen by 77 percent. More than 80 percent of the area's lakes have dried up. Around 1,300 hectares of grassland and arable land is lost to the desert every year.
Whether we can stop these ancient grottoes which have stood the test of time for almost two millennia from being destroyed and finally engulfed by the desert remains a great cause for concern.
Tremendous efforts have been made by the central and local governments to protect the grottoes.
However, the dilemma between the protection of cultural relics and economic development has again become a thorny issue.
But this is not a serious issue if the local government and local residents can view the issue from a long-term perspective. Economic development at the expense of ecology is the same as killing hens to get eggs. Once Dunhuang is totally engulfed by the desert, it will be impossible for residents to stay there, to say nothing of economic development.
If the grottoes, which make the city well known to the outside world, are completely destroyed, Dunhuang will lose its tourist appeal.
The grottoes are of vital importance and so is an environment that will make it possible for the protection of the grottoes to ensure further local economic development.
Stopping the over-exploitation of water resources and forests is the only option for the local government and residents to protect their homes from being finally engulfed by the desert.