Implementation of Six Key Forestry Programs
China's Implementation of Six Key Forestry Programs
by Lei Jiafu,
It is a basic national
policy in China to plant trees, protect forests and improve the ecosystem.
The Chinese Government has been attaching more importance to ecological
development since the beginning of the new century. It has decided to
invest several hundred billion yuan in initiating the Natural Forest Protection
Program, the Program for Conversion of Cropland to Forests, Key Shelterbelt
Development Programs in Such Regions as the Three North and the Middle
and Lower Reaches of the Yangtze River, the Sandification Combating Program
for Areas in the Vicinity of Beijing and Tianjin, the Wildlife Conservation
and Nature Reserve Development Program as well as the Fast-growing and
High-yield Timber Plantation Development Program. Implementation of the
six key forestry programs not only plays a significant role in improving
ecosystem and achieving sustainable development in China, but also contributes
enormously to maintaining ecological safety in the world.
It is a basic national policy in China to plant trees, protect forests and improve the ecosystem. The Chinese Government has been attaching more importance to ecological development since the beginning of the new century. It has decided to invest several hundred billion yuan in initiating the Natural Forest Protection Program, the Program for Conversion of Cropland to Forests, Key Shelterbelt Development Programs in Such Regions as the Three North and the Middle and Lower Reaches of the Yangtze River, the Sandification Combating Program for Areas in the Vicinity of Beijing and Tianjin, the Wildlife Conservation and Nature Reserve Development Program as well as the Fast-growing and High-yield Timber Plantation Development Program. Implementation of the six key forestry programs not only plays a significant role in improving ecosystem and achieving sustainable development in China, but also contributes enormously to maintaining ecological safety in the world.
I. The Background Against Which the Six Key Forestry Programs Are Implemented
Since the 1980s, China has conducted the National Voluntary Tree-planting Campaign for over 20 consecutive years. In addition, it has implemented such key ecological programs as the Three-north Shelterbelt Development Program and formulated the Forest Law, Wildlife Conservation Law, Desertification Combating Law, Regulations on Wild Flora Protection, Forestry Action Plan for China's Agenda 21, Blueprint for Ecosystem Development in China and other associated laws, regulations, policies and measures, which have helped maintain rapid development of forestry. Currently the preserved area of plantations nationwide has reached 46.66 million ha, taking up 26% of the world's total and ranking the first in the world. The forest area has risen up to 159 million ha, the stocking volume 11.27 billion cubic meters and the forest cover from 8.6% in the early period of New China to 16.55%, which indicates that sustained increase in forest area, stocking volume and forest cover has been achieved.
China, however, has not fundamentally reversed the trend of deteriorating ecosystem. Inadequate supply, low quality and uneven distribution feature forest resources in China. The forest area in China takes up only 4.1% and the stocking volume merely 2.9% of the world's total, which are far less sufficient to meet the production and livelihood needs of the population accounting for 22% of the world's total. Population growth and rapid economic development, in particular, have resulted in enormous consumption of forest resources and will bring more pressure on them. In the past five decades a total of 10 billion cubic meters of forest resources have been consumed nationwide. In the next 50 years the demand for forest resources will reach at least 18.5 billion cubic meters, 1.6 times as much as the existing gross forest resources, based on the current annual average consumption of 370 million cubic meters. Desertification, soil and water erosion have exacerbated as a result of scarce forest vegetation. The desertified land has reached 170 million ha nationwide, taking up 18.2% of the country's land area and affecting 400 million people. The soil- and water-eroded area has reached 360 million ha, accounting for 38.2% of the country's land area and resulting in a soil loss of 5 billion tons annually.
The status quo of forestry indicates that forestry development does not fit with the requirement of safeguarding ecological safety. According to the Blueprint for Ecosystem Development in China, the forest cover will be raised to over 26% in the next 50 years, which requires a net increase of 90.66 million ha in forest area. The area of newly established mature plantations will have to reach 212 million ha in order to make up for over 10 billion cubic meters of forest resource consumption. It would take 140 years to achieve that objective at the previous speed. Therefore the Chinese Government has decided to implement a strategy for forestry development by leaps and bounds through initiating six key forestry programs so as to shorten the period needed for rehabilitating and developing forest resources under the conventional mode. It is expected that the ecosystem development objective, which would take over one century to achieve under the conventional mode, will be reached in 50 years so as to usher in a new era of sustainable forestry development as soon as possible. The forest cover is expected to reach and be maintained at over 26% so as to improve the fundamental ecological conditions and rebuild a beautiful landscape.
II. Overall Layout and Progress of the Six Key Forestry Programs
Like an aircraft carrier for forestry in forging ahead toward the new century, the six key forestry programs have created unprecedented development opportunities for forestry development by leaps and bounds. The layout of the six key forestry programs is as follows:
Natural Forest Protection Program
It aims at rehabilitation and development of natural forests. The program covers 734 counties and 167 forest industry bureaus in key state-owned forest areas in 17 provinces (autonomous regions or municipalities) in the upper reaches of the Yangtze River and the upper and middle reaches of the Yellow River as well as the northeast and Inner Mongolia. Three major objectives are expected to be achieved during the period of 2000-2010.
1. The existing forest resources will be protected in a proper manner. A logging ban is put on commercial harvest of natural forests in the upper reaches of the Yangtze River and the upper and middle reaches of the Yellow River. The timber output in such key state-owned forest areas as the Northeast and Inner Mongolia is adjusted and reduced by 19.905 million cubic meters, and 94.2 million ha of forest are brought under strict conservation;
2. Efforts are accelerated in developing forest resources. An additional 14.66 million ha of forest and grassland, including 8.66 million ha of forest, are established in the upper reaches of the Yangtze River and the upper and middle reaches of the Yellow River so as to raise the forest cover by 3.72%.
The Program for Conversion of Cropland to Forests
It targets soil and water erosion in key areas. The program covers 24 provinces (autonomous regions or municipalities). It is expected that 14.66 million ha of cropland will be converted to forest and 17.33 million ha of barren land covered with trees during the period of 2001-2010. Upon completion of the program the forest and grass cover of the program area will be raised by 5%, 86.66 million ha of soil- and water-eroded area brought under control and 103 million ha of sand-fixation area established.
The Sandification Control Program for Areas in the Vicinity of Beijing and Tianjin
It targets the sandstorms in areas surrounding the capital. The program covers 75 counties, with a total area of 460,000 km2, in five provinces (autonomous regions or municipalities), including Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei, Shanxi and Inner Mongolia. It is expected that during the period of 2001-2010 2.63 million ha of cropland will be converted to forest, 4.94 million ha of plantations established, 10.63 million ha of grassland harnessed, 113,800 supporting water conservation facilities developed, 23,000 km2 of catchment managed and 180,000 people relocated for ecological reasons. Upon completion of the program the ecosystem in the areas in the vicinity of Beijing and Tianjin will be remarkably improved, with the forest cover reaching 19.44%, an increase of 8.27%.
Key Shelterbelt Development Programs in Such Regions as the Three North and the Middle and Lower Reaches of the Yangtze River
It targets desertification combating in the Three North region and other
ecological problems in other regions. It includes the 4th phase of the
Three-north Shelterbelt Program, the 2nd phases of the Yangtze River,
Coastal and Zhuhai Shelterbelt Programs as well as the 2nd phases of the
Taihang Mountain Afforestation Program and the Plain Afforestation Program.
The 4th phase of the Three-north Shelterbelt Program has been initiated,
with its focus on desertification combating. It involves 590 counties
in 13 provinces (autonomous regions or municipalities) in the Three-north
region. It is expected that 9.46 million ha of land will be afforested
and 1.3 million ha of desertified land brought under control during the
period of 2001-2010. Upon completion of the program the forest cover in
the program area will be raised by a net 1.84%, nearly 11.33 million ha
of farmland put under shelter and 12.66 million ha of desertified, salified
and degraded grassland protected and rehabilitated. Key shelterbelt development
programs in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River involve
relevant areas in 31 provinces (autonomous regions or municipalities).
It is expected that 18 million ha of land will be afforested, 7.33 million
ha of low-efficiency shelterbelt improved and 37.33 million ha of existing
forests properly managed and protected during the period of 2001-2010.
This program targets such issues as species, nature and wetland protection. Priorities, between 2001 and 2010, will be given to the following: firstly, 15 wild fauna and flora (including the Giant Panda, Golden Monkey, Tibetan Antelope and plants in the orchid family) protection projects will be set up; secondly, 200 nature reserve projects in the types of forest, desertified land and wetland ecosystem, 32 wetland conservation and wise use demonstration projects and 50,000 nature reserve districts will be established; thirdly, the germplasm pools for conservation of wild fauna and flora, the national research system of wild fauna and flora and relevant monitoring networks will be completed. By the year 2010, the number of nature reserves will reach 1800, among which, 220 nature reserves are at national level, with the total area of nature reserves taking up 16.14% of the country's land area.
The Fast-growing and High-yielding Timber Plantation Development Program in Key Regions
This program aims at resolving the supply of timber and at the same time, mitigating the pressure of timber demand on forest resources. The program covers 114 forestry bureaus ( or farms ) and 886 counties of 18 provinces and autonomous regions located to the east of isohyet of 400 mm in China. It plans, between 2001-2015, to establish 13.33 million ha of fast-growing and high-yielding plantations in three phases. The program will provide 130 million m3 of timber annually upon completion, accounting for 40% of China's commercial timber consumption, thus keeping an initial balance between timber supply and demand. The six key forestry programs cover over 97% of counties of the country and 76 million ha of plantations are planned to be established, which makes the programs unprecedented in history due to their wide range, large scale and great investments. Among the six key forestry programs, the scale of four programs is larger than that of the Remaking Nature Program in the former Soviet Union, the Industry Program on Prairie in the United States and the Green Dam Program of five countries in North Africa.
Great progress has been made since the trial and start of six key forestry programs. In the Natural Forest Protection Program areas, 92.66 million ha of forests have been effectively managed and protected, taking up 60% of the total forest area in China, 6.33 million ha of forests have been newly established and 186 million m3 of net stock volume been increased. A complete logging ban has been put on commercial harvest of the natural forests in 13 provinces and autonomous regions along the upper reaches of the Yangtze River and the upper and middle reaches of the Yellow River. The timber output in such state-owned forest areas as the Northeast and Inner Mongolia has been significantly adjusted and reduced by 7.63 million m3. 530,000 forest workers have been redirected and resettled. In the Conversion of Cropland to Forests Program, 2.16 million ha of barren mountains and wasteland and cropland have been afforested and converted into forests. The survey made by the State Forestry Administration in 2000 showed that 97.56% of plantation areas were verified and 87.36% of plantations were qualified according to the plantation criteria. In the Wildlife Conservation and Nature Reserve Development Program, 167 nature reserves are newly established, which makes the number of nature reserves in forest and wild fauna and flora types reach 1156 totally with the total area being 116 million ha, accounting for 12.09% of the country's land area. The Three North Shelterbelt Development Program has brought 1.58 million ha of desertified land under control. 900,000 ha of land have been covered with trees and grasses in the Sandification Control Program for Areas in the Vicinity of Beijing and Tianjin.
III. The Six Key Forestry Programs Are the Turning Points for Promoting Historically Five Forestry Transformations.
With the implementation of six key forestry programs being as a mark, forestry in China has entered a new development stage. During this period, while implementing the principle of giving the priority to ecological benefit and taking account of ecological, social and economic benefits, forestry will be speeded up development, propel greatly five historic transformations: (1) shifting from previous emphasis on forest industry to public undertaking. In the past, forestry in China was taken as a basic industry in the national economy. When the new century comes, great attention has been paid to forests' key and basic position in ecological and sustainable development. The six key forestry programs approved by the State Council have been listed into the social and public programs, which indicates that forestry has been shifted from previous emphasis on forest industry to public undertaking; (2) shifting from free use to non-gratuitous use of forests' ecological benefits. In 2001, the State Forestry Administration and the Ministry of Finance decided to set up pilots at 660 county units of 11 provinces and 24 national nature reserves with a total area of 13.33 million ha. The implementation of the system has declared the end of history of free use of forests' ecological value and the start of new stage of non-gratuitous use of forests ecological value; (3) shifting from devastating forests for arable land to converting cropland into forests. In the old time, the devastation of forests for arable land had played an important role in solving the grain problem. However, it had become a key factor of degrading the ecology at the same time. In order to control water and soil erosion and based on the trial of converting cropland into forests program in 1999, the program started all-over early this year. It is a great change in China's forestry history from devastating forests for arable land to converting cropland into forests and from taking grain as the key link to changing grains for forests; (4) shifting from previous emphasis on felling natural forests to gradually harvesting plantations. The natural forests have been the most important timber production areas in China. With the implementation of six key forestry programs, natural forests will be strictly protected. In addition, in order to cultivate more natural forest resources, the way of afforestation will be changed from tree planting to mountain closure in combination with mountain closure, aerial sowing and tree planting. At the same time, the timber output of natural forests has been greatly reduced and the proportion of timber output of plantations been increased. With efforts made for a period of time, the timber production will be shifted from previous felling natural forests to a new stage of gradually harvesting plantations; (5) shifting from forestry managed by forestry sector to forestry managed by multi-sectors through promoting initiatives of the whole society for forestry development. The whole society has paid great attention to the six key forestry programs. The governments at local level have worked out the plans and methods for implementing six key forestry programs. Many suggestions have been made for the programs by all walks of life. The active participation in the development of six key forestry programs has turned into the common action of the whole society.