Furious dust and sandstorms from Inner Mongolia cripple airports, darken skies, and choke millions of people across East Asia every spring. According to "Reign of Sand," the new multimedia report from Circle of Blue done in partnership with the China Environment Forum, the storms are growing in intensity and frequency, and the primary causes are deepening drought in northern China and the mismanagement of the largest grasslands on earth.

In August 2007, CEF and Circle of Blue assembled a group of desertification experts and photographers to take a five-day car ride from Beijing into eastern Inner Mongolia. On their drive into the ocean of sand, they gathered stories, photos, and video to put a human face on the impact of China's growing desertification crisis.

Central to the success of the trip and the final stories produced was activist Chen Jiqun from the NGO Echoing Steppe, who for years has been advocating better awareness of the plight of Mongolians suffering from relentless desertification in Inner Mongolia. Chad Futrell was the lead author on the story and he brought his knowledge and years of experience researching China's policies and programs on desertification to explore the drivers of increasingly harsh sand storms. Getty Images photographer Palani Mohan and Circle of Blue videographer Eric Daigh captured images—both the stunning and heartbreaking—of how the dry environment is challenging many citizens in Inner Mongolia.

CEF and Circle of Blue melded Chad's story with images from Palani and Eric onto the Circle of Blue website.

Circle of Blue is a network of media professionals, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and researchers seeking to focus attention on global freshwater problems

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