Mission life: THE KUKMIN DAILY

KCEMS Project Progress: Grace Forest in the Mongolian Desert

2017-06-15 11:43

Since 2009, Korea Christian Environmental Movement Solidarity for Integrity of Creation (KCEMS, executive director Rev. Lee Jin-hyeong) has been cultivating an area named “Forest of Grace” in barren Argalant, some 80 kilometers west of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. The forest is 80,000㎡ in size, making it ten times larger than a soccer field.

The Mongolian desert, along with Inner Mongolia, is the origin of “yellow dust.” To reduce the damage from yellow dust, the planting of trees is needed, to prevent desertification. Cultivation of forests is something hard to imagine in the vast desert (626,800㎢) that makes up nearly 40% of the entire area of Mongolia.

Nevertheless, KCEMS has entered its eighth year of participation in this project. In Grace Forest, there are 21,800 trees including poplar, willow, and pine trees. The first batch of trees is now 2~3 meters tall and producing ample shade. Now KCEMS is planning to conclude a contract with Mongolian State University of Agriculture to form an infrastructure for the expansion of Grace Forest.

On June 12, KCEMS Executive Director Lee Jin-hyeong said, “For China, it’s a matter of will. If they decide to reduce yellow dust and micro-dust, they can do it. But for Mongolia, it is difficult to take such measures through their own resources. That is why we decided to make this move.” He added, “Besides us, there are many NGOs and corporations working on desert cultivation in Mongolia. The difference is that we find it meaningful that our project is a collection of efforts by churches and philanthropists throughout Korea.”

Desertification in Mongolia is especially serious because it is happening so rapidly. Over the past 20 years, 700 rivers, 800 lakes, and 1,500 wells have disappeared. Reportedly, 70% of plant species are near extinction.

Rev. Kim Ki-seok of Chungpa Church, who chairs the Grace Forest committee, said, “Small actions are crucial. Our church members give an ‘offering of responsibility’ whenever they travel long distance by car or airplane, for the CO2 emissions this causes. Looking toward the distant future, it will be a much better decision to plant a tree than just to sit and worry.”

Reporter Jang Chang-Il (jangci@kmib.co.kr), with Yeara Ahn-Park (yap@kmib.co.kr)
Photo provided by KCEMS

Original Article in Korean:
몽골 사막을 숲으로… 8년째 구슬땀: 기독교환경운동연대 프로젝트

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