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Afforestation Plan Makes Major Progress

The nation's campaign to turn cultivated land back into forest has seen steady progress with the support and participation of local people and officials, an official with the State Development Planning Commission said yesterday.

The one-year experimental afforestation project in southern China returned 386,000 hectares of cultivated land to forest or grassland last year, said Li Zibin, vice-minister of the commission, at a meeting held in the city of Ya'an in Southwest China's Sichuan Province.

The project has also greened 478,000 hectares of wasteland in mountainous areas in southern China, Li said.

Forest coverage in some areas of the country has been decreasing rapidly in the past few years due to increased human activity, the official said.

The Chinese government has promoted the afforestation of cultivated land since 1998 to curb soil erosion and desertification.

The afforestation campaign has gained the support of local people who have been gradually educated about the importance of environmental protection, Li said.

Desertification has become a real concern for Chinese people, especially those living in mountainous areas.

Sandstorms caused by soil erosion and severe floods caused by desertification have hit some areas repeatedly in recent years.

Farmers who have turned their cultivated land into forest or grassland in the experimental afforestation areas in southern China will all be compensated by local governments.

Good quality seedlings and advanced technology have been introduced to improve the survival rate of trees.

Officials from the State Development Planning Commission and the State Bureau of Forestry have urged local governments to introduce environmentally-friendly energy sources to reduce the use of wood as a fuel.

Those living in ecologically fragile areas have also been persuaded to move to other areas with better environmental conditions for human habitation.

(China Daily 05/11/2001)

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