According to a report in a Beijing newspaper, current logging practices in south China's Hainan Province could result in the loss of trees along thousands of kilometers of road.
Fears were raised after the Beijing News reported yesterday that a subsidiary of Asia Pulp & Paper Co Ltd (APP) was involved in mass logging of roadside trees on the island province.
If this continues and is supported and promoted by the local government, nearly 20,000 kilometers of native trees could be cut down to make way for eucalyptus, said the newspaper.
Eucalyptus provide the raw material for the Jinhai Pulp Factory, an APP subsidiary that started operating on Hainan in January with capacity to produce 600,000 tons of pulp a year.
Planting eucalyptus over a large area can result in degradation of soil quality, adversely affecting biological diversity.
The Beijing News said the provincial government expects significant investment from APP – the Jinhai plant accounted for 80 percent of Hainan’s inward investment into established industrial projects last year.
An APP source refused to comment on the issue on Thursday.
According to the report, all the original trees along the Chengmai County section of an expressway in the province have been chopped down and a board erected saying: "Demonstration section for changing roadside trees into pulp and paper-oriented trees."
By the end of last year, Chengmai’s county government had signed contracts affecting 80 kilometers of road, the newspaper reported, and this model is being promoted across the province.
Head of the Hainan Forestry Bureau Zhu Xuancheng reportedly said eucalyptus trees would be planted alongside expressways, highways and township roads.
The total length of such roads on the island is more than 19,400 kilometers, the Beijing News reported, quoting the local transport authority.
The Jinhai plant’s huge demand for timber appears to be behind the massive logging efforts.
A forestry official told the newspaper that Hainan has stopped exporting timber and is, instead, supplying all its timber to Jinhai. At the same time, the plant buys timber from south China's Guangdong Province and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region.
Before that, Hainan's timber exports stood at 200,000 tons a year.
An APP source told the Beijing News that the Jinhai plant is heavily dependent on importing raw material.
The report put APP under spotlight again after the company was accused by environmental groups of destroying forests in the southwestern province of Yunnan.
In mid-November, Greenpeace China claimed APP's large-scale paper and pulp project there could devastate the province's forests, prompting one hotel association to ask its members to boycott APP products.
(China Daily March 18, 2005)