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Deforestation: Local Gov'ts Cut Down to Size
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Yesterday the State Forestry Administration (SFA) stopped Indonesia's Asia Pulp & Paper Co (APP) from buying 58 percent of a state-owned timber company in Hainan Province and pulled up several local governments for being involved in timber related rackets.

Such schemes, 10 of which are considered major, are depleting the country's forest cover and damaging the environment, said the SFA.

The APP merger and acquisition plan in the south China island province involved the transfer of 67,000 hectares of state-owned forest. So the SFA requested the provincial government to carry out a thorough investigation before making a final and prudent decision.

"Pursuing immediate interests some local governments have backed or been directly involved in selling forest land at very low prices," SFA spokesperson, Cao Qingyao, said at a news conference after results of their 2006 national survey on forest resources were released.

Among the 10 cases the most severe occurred in north China's Inner Mongolia. To build an expressway in Naimai Banner the autonomous region's Communications Department seized over 350 hectares of forest illegally and more than 6,000 cubic meters of timber has been felled since 2005.

Other destructive schemes included the construction of a hydro-power plant in Muli County of Sichuan Province, the operation of 20 mines in Fengcheng, Liaoning Province and a railway improvement project between Zhejiang and Jiangxi provinces.

Infrastructure projects such as railways, highways, hydro-power plants and power grids have resulted in a great number of trees being felled without the approval of the forestry departments, said the SFA. Illegal mining has also caused a lot of damage to the forests.

Cao told the country's 14 regional forest resource management offices, which report to the SFA, to crack down on those felling trees illegally.

To better manage the country's forest and wetlands the SFA will soon embark on a new national forestry development and planting scheme.

"The existing plan was worked out in the 1980s and cannot address the problems of today," Cao said. The new plan, to be completed this year, will have detailed guidelines on planting and protection.

(China Daily February 8, 2007)

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