China's efforts to increase country's forest cover 15-04-21 10:06 Updated BJT
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By Gu Changjuan

China ranks first among the top 10 countries that gained forest areas in the last decade, according to the latest Global Forest Resources Assessment by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.

A report titled China and India lead in greening of the world through land-use management by the Department of Earth and Environment at Boston University also confirms the development: 

"China alone accounts for 25% of the global net increase in leaf area with only 6.6% of global vegetated area. The greening in China is from forests (42%) and croplands (32%), but in India is mostly from croplands (82%) with minor contribution from forests (4.4%)."

What does it mean?

It means China has realized that mankind is a community with a shared future. Protecting the ecological environment is a common challenge and responsibility facing the whole world. 

It means China has made great efforts to contribute to the greening of the planet, and more importantly, has made great achievements.  

Behind the achievements are the persistence and dedication of millions of people, as well as a long-term, scientific and targeted approach.

Saihanba: A green miracle passed on from generation to generation

The Saihanba Forest Farm is the world's largest manmade forest, a 750-square-kilometer barrier 300 kilometers north of Beijing planted to save the Chinese capital from desertification. 

Today, overlooking the sea of green, it would be hard to fathom that a half century ago, the area was barren wasteland.

Photo shows the change at Saihanba

The dramatic transformation began 59 years ago with the effort of a group of trailblazing foresters and engineers. In 1962, the Ministry of Forestry Saihanba Mechanical Forest Farm was formally established. Some 369 young people with lofty ideals from different parts of the country went all the way north to Saihanba.

Food and shelter was in short supply, so the group grew their own potatoes and corn and set up shacks and tents, sometimes using only twigs and straw that gave little shelter from the freezing wind.

In the beginning, planting trees on the frigid highland was an impossible task due to the high winds. Over 90 percent of the seedlings planted in the first two years died and the forest farm was on the brink of shutting down. After trying different ways of planting trees, the survival rate of the saplings topped 90 percent in 1964.

Experts and workers in Saihanba in the 1960s [File photo]

Planting trees is not enough. Carefully protecting the woods and managing well the whole forest farm is even harder. That is the priority of later generations. 

During fire prevention periods in spring and autumn, they check the vast expanse of forest every 15 minutes during the day, and once an hour at night. 

Now as third-generation tree planters in Saihanba, they need to solve even more difficult problems in the never-ending afforestation effort. Since there is much less flat land left for planting trees, they have to work on the rocky mountain slopes where the topsoil is only 10 centimeters thick. But before giving the saplings a home, they need to dig holes about 40 centimeters deep.

Three generations of persistence have turned Saihanba from a nascent stand of trees into a million acres of forest, from a desert into an oasis.

Building a green oasis in Maowusu Desert

Covering about 42,200 square kilometers, the Maowusu desert, once one of the four major deserts in the country, used to be known as "devil's land”.

From 1959, local people who had suffered enough from sand-related disasters decided to fight back against the encroaching sand. Since then, trees have been planted to resist the wind and water channels have been built to turn the sandy land into farmland. By the 1980s and 1990s, sound plans had also been developed for development and management of water resources.

After decades of enormous effort a vast stretch of strikingly verdant fields have emerged as 93.24 percent of the land was turned green. Today, there are scientifically compounded sandy farmlands, herds of cattle and sheep and even highways.

  Aerial photo taken in 2018 shows the boundary between green and desert areas.  

Large-scale ecological improvement projects

In past 20 years, enormous funds have been invested in China to control land degradation by implementing projects such as the three North Shelterbelt, protection of natural forest resources, returning farmland to forest and grassland, and improving the grassland ecology, all of which effectively increased the green area in the country. 

Take the policy of returning farmland to forest and grassland as an example:

China had seen its forests increase by 515 million mu (about 33.5 million hectares) since the project was launched in 1999, with the total investment exceeding 500 billion yuan (about $72.63 billion).

The government provides subsidies in grain as well as cash for farmers whose land has been into forest to compensate for their loss of income. The subsidy terms are geared to what kind of vegetation the farmland has been converted to. 

Additional funds will also be channeled to major reforestation areas to maintain basic grain farmland for rural households, as well as provide rural energy sources and pay for forestry maintenance.

The project also helps adjust the rural industrial structure, fostering eco-economic industries and opening up new avenues for promoting the sustainable development of agriculture.

Public participation in forestry

March 12 is National Tree-planting Day in China. Every year on this day, different levels of governments, including the highest leadership of the central government, and people from different fields participate in tree-planting activities. 

Besides this specific day, a year-round online project has become more and more popular, involving 550 million people and resulting in more than 2 million trees planted in the real world.

The program rewards users with “green energy points” for choosing low-carbon activities like taking public transportation or using less plastic. As their points accumulate to certain levels, game users can choose to plant a tree in the real world or virtually claim a small piece of land in one of the conservation areas. For every tree planted in the virtual game, a real tree is planted in rural China.

Photo taken in 2019 shows sand barriers in the Tengger Desert, northwest China's Gansu province. The green area is forest planted by game users.

All of the above is about the past and the present. What about the future?

China's National Forestry and Grassland Administration has vowed to increase the country's forest coverage rate to 24.1 percent in the next five years. The nation's forest stock volume would reach 19 billion cubic meters by the end of the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) period, an increase of 1.4 billion cubic meters from the present level, according to Xinhua news agency.

In the fight against climate change, China has also show its determination at the UN General Assembly:

China will aim to hit peak emissions before 2030 and reach carbon neutrality by 2060.

(The views don't necessarily represent those of the

Editor: zhangrui
15-04-21 10:06 BJT
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