No, it's not a mirage: Tiny 2,000-year-old oasis in China that keeps city alive is saved from being swallowed by desert
- Crescent Lake near Dunhuang is a spring in the shape of a half moon
- Oasis surrounded by sand dunes was shrinking fast due to desertification
- Saved from disappearing after government began to refill it
This ancient oasis in the middle of a Chinese desert was in danger of disappearing beneath the sands until the government stepped in to save it.
Located about 6km south of the city of Dunhuang in north west China, the Crescent Lake (Yueyaquan in Chinese) is a fresh water spring in the shape of a half moon.
The oasis, which is believed to have existed for 2,000 years, was shrinking fast due to increasing desertification in the region before the government began to refill it.
Oasis: Yueyaquan Crescent Lake in Dunhuang, north west China is completely surrounded by sand dunes. The arid region barely gets any rain each year
Remote: The tiny lake was disappearing fast - with a dramatic decline in water depth during the past three decades - before the government stepped in to save it
The lake has gone from having an average depth of about 5m in 1960, to an average of less than a meter in the early 1990s as the underground water table has declined dramatically.
In 2006, the local government decided to step in and rescue the oasis, refilling it with water. It has increased in depth since then, Niceartlife.com reports.
The lake is 218m long from east to west and 54m wide from north to south and contains pure spring water.
Next to the lake is a traditional pagoda and a street lined with souvenir stalls. The site is popular with tourists who are taken on camel rides by guides to the peaks of the surrounding dunes.
The lake's remarkable survival in the middle of the desert is believed to be due to its low altitude, while its position is also thought to prevent excess sand from the surrounding dunes falling into it.
Problem: The Chinese Government plans to introduce a range of measures to tackle increasing desertification which threatens various regions
Arid: A guide leading camels near the lake. The region has suffered from increasing desertification in recent decades
Surrounded by high mountains, Dunhuang has an arid climate - and is extremely hot in the summer and cold in winter.
Rain only occurs in tiny amounts and quickly evaporates, resulting in the desert landscape.
Desertification has become a major environmental problem in China which the government has tried to tackle in various ways.
This includes the proposed creation of a 'green wall' of forests to counter the spread of deserts.
Weather: A guide waits for tourists next to a group of camels. The area suffers from extremes in temperature, from very high summer temperatures to freezing winters
Hard work: An exhausted camel takes a rest in the sand as another guide peers across the area. The Chinese Government is taking steps to address the country's increasing desertification
Historic: A cart carries a group of tourists at the lake. The city of Dunhuang relies heavily on tourism and features a number of historic sites dating back to the Han Dynasty