Fuyang, a district in Hangzhou, China, covers an area of 1,831 square kilometres, with a population of 660,000. The mountainous landforms are featured with insufficient congenital farmland, and the available land resources are relatively limited. The amount of farmable land is also limited, with less than 0.04 Ha arable land per capita. Further, the area is facing water resource shortages due to climate change and increasing water needs in urban areas due to rapid urbanisation. The district requires a sustainable way to change barren land in the mountain into arable land, with water-saving technologies.
The local government of Fuyang signed an agreement that allows an innovative water-saving and water-harvesting technology to be used in the mountain area.
Aeolian sands obtained from deserts, after modification, have been utilised to conserve water and combat water scarcity in desert farming. The sand particles go through nanotech surface treatment processes. The coating, surface roughening, and surface modification processes allow the sand to be air-permeable while watertight. When used as a thin layer in farming applications, it prevents excessive infiltration and reduces evaporation, and dramatically reduces water consumption. This new sand material, termed as ‘breathable sand’ was invented a decade ago and has been successfully utilised in many projects to save water usage in farms.
Breathable sand installed under the plant root zone can significantly reduce water infiltration and avoid salt intrusion from the subsoil . Field studies show that 29% of water-saving, stronger root and leaf development, and higher crop quantity and quality were achieved from rice fields with 3 cm of breathable sand liner, compared to those from conventional fields.
A resident of the Changpan Village expresses, “In the past, the soil was muddy and the farmers people would sink deeply when planting crops. The hilltop wasteland, weeds, and unattended trees were all intertwined, which was very unsightly. The local people called it ‘rotten fields.’
Farmers now have more arable land to plant rice and other crops. Moreover, breathable sand, as a water-saving technology significantly saves water usage and allows water harvesting and reuse, which in turn saves fertiliser consumption.
Developments in Fuyang are limited to land development regulations because the central government of China requires a certain percentage of farmland to be maintained by the area. Changing the barren land into farms therefore allows for some land development (urban housing and roads) in the future .
Fuyang Eco-Terraced Rice Field
Each of the RMS solutions are linked to the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals outlined by the UN in 2015. The SDGs that this intervention contributes to are as follows: