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51.54 billion trees planted in 27 years
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With Tree-planting Day coming tomorrow (March 12) the State Forestry Authority revealed in its 2007 Green Coverage Report published on Tuesday that a total of 51.54 billion trees had been planted by ordinary Chinese people by the end of last year.

China's top legislative body, the National People's Congress (NPC), passed a resolution in December 1981 calling for voluntary tree planting to tackle worsening environmental conditions.

Excessive tree felling and growing industrialization has eroded many of China's green areas, making reforestation crucial.

2.27 billion trees were planted last year by 58 percent of the population, lifting the urban forestry coverage to 35.11 percent, up 2.57 percentage points, according to figures from the State Forestry Administration (SFA). Administration Director Jia Zhibang said that people's awareness of preserving ecological balances has been enhanced greatly as the campaign moves forward.

The nationwide restoration effort has helped fuel the fastest expansion of man-made forest areas in China, taking up 53.2 percent of the global annual increase, or one third of the world's total, the SFA said. The man-made forest area now totals more than 53.33 million hectares, the largest on the planet, Jia Zhibang said.

He said snow-ravaged south China has made moves to restore forests. This year's severe winter cost China's forestry sector 57.3 billion yuan (about 8 billion U.S. dollars) in losses and damaged 20.86 million hectares of forests, or 10 percent of the total. Heavy losses would set back efforts needed to meet a national 20-percent forest-cover target by 2020, the administration said.

China's forest acreage reached 175 million hectares last year, raising the country's forest coverage to 18.21 percent, compared with 12 percent in 1981.

The per capital public green areas edged up 0.41 to 8.3 square meters last year, still much lower than the international average.

(Xinhua News Agency March 12, 2008)

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