China Focus: Rapidly emerging forest parks embellish China's Loess Plateau

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TAIYUAN, June 25 (Xinhua) -- China has been promoting afforestation for decades. Today, forest parks are constantly emerging around many cities and counties, offering local residents places of leisure and entertainment.

Every weekend, Wang Kai, a resident of Taiyuan City in north China's Shanxi Province, drives from the heart of the city to Yuquanshan Chengjiao Forest Park in the suburb to revel in nature's lap.

Featuring a beautiful natural environment and convenient transportation, the forest has received millions of tourists every year since its opening in 2014, making it a popular scenic spot for local outings.

"I come here not only to see the scenery but to witness the ever-changing environment," said Wang.

In the last century, Taiyuan West Mountain, where the park located, had abundant gypsum resources. Hundreds of gypsum mines were operating here, putting tremendous pressure on the environment.

After entering the 21st century, with mineral resource depletion, this place became seven large garbage dumps and the main source of dust for Taiyuan City.

To promote sustainable development, the local government in 2011 issued a new policy to build forest parks in areas that sustained serious ecological damage. As a result, the 1,100-hectare Yuquanshan Chengjiao Forest Park witnessed the planting of more than 1.7 million trees, with the number continuing to rise.

Shanxi Province is situated in the world's largest loess area. This area had a fragile ecology marred by serious soil erosion. However, with the implementation of the afforestation policy over the decades, the forest coverage rate has continued to increase, and barren hills have turned green in almost every county-level administrative area.

Ma Lanzhu, a worker in Lanxian County, shares an emotional bond with the environment. "I have covered these former barren hills in green coats with my own hands. I'm proud of it," Ma said looking at a piece of woodland.

As a member of the "afforestation cooperatives" in the county, the 73-year-old worker and more than 2,200 of his colleagues have planted 330 million plants such as Chinese pine and sea buckthorn during the 13th Five-Year Plan period (2016-2020), covering more than 20,000 hectares of land. Thanks to their efforts, the local forest coverage rate has soared from 16.5 percent to 20.6 percent.

According to the Shanxi Forestry and Grassland Bureau, in the early 1950s, the forest coverage rate was only 2.4 percent. By the end of 2019, this had increased to 23.18 percent, exceeding the national average for the first time.

Afforestation has provided local people with more choices of development. In Mayinghe Village of Youyu County, locals have developed eco-tourism based on the area's beautiful natural environment.

"In 2020, the village's per-capita net income exceeded 12,200 yuan (1,890 U.S. dollars), nearly 40 percent higher than the same period of the previous year," said Zhu Yi, a village official.

In recent years, the continuous improvement of the ecological environment has raised Youyu's profile and enabled the county to host activities such as Shanxi Youyu Eco-International Marathon, Yulong International Horse Racing Open Tournament, a national road cycling tournament and other events.

Green development has become a characteristic feature of China's promotion of high-quality development. Carbon neutrality was highlighted in this year's government work report. The country also plans to raise the forest coverage rate to 24.1 percent during the 14th Five-Year Plan period (2021-2025).

"During the 14th Five-Year Plan period, we will continue to promote the greening of the country to ensure that 1.33 million hectares of forests will be planted by 2025, and the forest coverage rate will reach 26 percent," said Yuan Tongsuo, director of the Shanxi Forestry and Grassland Bureau. Enditem

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