China’s forestry sector is shifting from being a profit-seeking business to being more environment-friendly and this is considered a major part of the shaping “modern forestry industry,” said Zhou Shengxian, director of the State Forestry Administration.
Zhou told a meeting Thursday that the sector will prioritize environmental protection rather than timber production, which has been the priority in the past several decades.
The country plans to afforestate 4.32 million hectares of land in 2001, a rise of 9.2 percent over the acreage of trees that have already been planted. And 6 million hectares more of forests will be prevented from being logged this year.
In the coming 10 years, more effort will be made to protect natural forests on the upper reach of the Yangtze River and the upper and middle reaches of the Yellow River. The country plans to plant 22.6 million hectares of trees in 28 provinces and municipalities, in a bid to prevent desertification.
The government will further promote the project to turn farmland into forests and grassland and it hopes that, with this project, the volume of soil and sand, which are injected into the Yangtze and Yellow Rivers due to soil erosion, will be reduced by 260 million tons annually by 2010.
However, the forestry sector can still be a profitable business as the demand for environment-friendly and natural products has soared recently, Zhou said, adding that “the key point is to keep the balance between the two sides.”
The turnover of the forestry sector stood at 340 billion yuan last year, doubling that of 1995, an annual average growth of 16 percent, and the turnover is expected to reach 364 billion yuan this year.
One of the key measures taken by the government was to develop different kinds of forests for different purposes, Zhou added. For example, forests in north, northwest and northeast China are to form the anti-desert “green Great Wall” and trees in south and southeast regions are planted mostly for commercial purpose.
Zhou said that in the next 10 years China will develop a number of forest bases for commercial use that are expected to produce 130 million cubic meters of timber annually, equal to 40 percent of domestic demand.
Several forest-related businesses, such as growing flowers, bamboo products, food, medicinal herbs and tourism, have also brought new outlets to developing the sector.
The boom of tourism in forest areas balanced the protection of forests with the desire for local economic growth, Zhou said, “the government intends to provide preferential policies and create more forest parks.”
The country now has 1,050 forest parks with a total area of 10 million hectares.
“Forest-related businesses still have great potential for us to explore,” he said, “we could use new perspectives and marketing methods.”
Forests now cover 158 million hectares in China, accounting for 16.55 percent of the country’s total territory.
(People’s Daily 02/16/2001)