LHASA, July 5 (Xinhua) -- By the Yarlung Tsangpo River in Tibet, about 1000 residents are busy planting trees.
"It was very dusty and windy here a decade ago," said 61-year-old Tseten, sweat on his forehead. "Neither people nor animals came out here."
There are fewer bad days now, perhaps thanks to the trees, he said.
"You can see foxes and rabbits here now," he added.
In Tibet, more trees are being planted, wild animals are better protected and polluting industries have been closed down. The environment is top of the agenda at the ongoing Forum on the Development of Tibet 2016.
In Tseten's hometown, Xigaze, once where sandstorms frequently struck, herdsmen have planted about 1,200 hectares of forest in the past two years, with about 550 ha more to be completed this year, according to Tsering Dondrup of the local forestry bureau.
Environmental campaigns near Tibet's six major rivers have seen pastures returned to forests and desertification stopped in its tracks .
In the Shannan section of the Yarlung Tsangpo River, for instance, forests are increasing at an annual speed of 5.25 cubic meters per ha.
According to a 2014 national survey, Tibet ranked first in terms of forest area and forest stock.
Wildlife protection is also much improved. At Changtang National Nature Reserve in northern Tibet, hundreds of thousands of Tibetan antelope wander.
"Tibetan antelopes are usually very shy. They run away at the sight of human beings," said Tsewang Norbu, a ranger at the reserve. "But instead of running away, they now stop and stare at me each time I approach them on my motorcycle."
In Tibet, 125 species have state protection, about one third of the national total. Tibetan antelope, wild ass, wild yak, and even snow leopard are increasingly sighted in Tibet.
In the past 20 years, the number of Tibetan antelopes has risen from about 40,000 to almost 200,000, while the wild ass population has risen almost three-fold in the same period.
More wildlife brings trouble for some residents. In February, a Xigaze resident claimed to have been "robbed" by 10 northern plains gray langur.
"They know that we will not hurt them, so they often come to steal food in our village, particularly during Winters and Spring," said Gyezang."This year they stole my potatoes and carrots, though government subsidies helped cover my losses."
Authorities planning to spend 15.5 billion yuan (2.3 billion U.S. dollars) to guarantee "blue skies and clean water."
"Environmental protection is our bottom line when it comes to economic development," said Losang Gyaltsen, the regional Party chairman.
Tibet has also banned expansions of industries like steel, chemicals and paper, with existing companies shut down or told to transform, according to Zhuang Hongxiang, deputy head of the regional environmental protection department.