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Major Reforestation Project Announced

A 10-year reforestation project in China that will cover 97 percent of the country -- and on a scale rivaling that of any land reclamation projects previously undertaken in the world, according to Lei Jiafu, deputy director of the State Forestry Administration. Lei announced at a press conference Tuesday that seventy-six million hectares (293,436 square miles or over twice the size of the state of Colorado) of forest will be planted.

[The full text of the Information Office of the State Council press conference May 14, 2002 by Lei Jiafu and Zhu Lieke, deputy directors of State Forestry Administration, is available at china.org.cn’s regular press conference feature .]

Lei said the planting is one of six key programs to protect and renew forests in China: The Natural Forest Protection Program for reclamation of natural forest; the Key Shelterbelt Development Programs in northwest China, north China and northeast China as well as middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River for control of sand damage, soil erosion and other ecological problems; the Program for Conversion of Cropland to Forests; the Program to Combat Desertification around Beijing and Tianjin; the Wildlife Conservation and Nature Reserve Development to protect biological species; and the Fast-growing and High-yield Timber Planting Development Program to address supply problems related to timber and forestry products.

The wide range, large scale and huge investment involved in these programs exceeds that of such historical efforts as Remaking Nature Program of the former Soviet Union and the Prairie Reclamation Project in the United States and the Green Dam Program of five countries in North Africa, Lei said.

According to Lei, two key measures are to be taken to keep a balance between timber supply and demand in China. One is to enlarge the area of artificial planting, especially to increase the ratio of short-period fast-growing and high-yield timber. The construction of fast-growing and high-yield timber bases are now under way, with 200 million mu (33.3 million acres) of afforestation scheduled for 10 to 15 years. These, plus the existing 80 million mu (13.3 million acres), will meet the demand of domestic timber markets at large.

The other measure aims to save timber by increasing the timber’s utilization ratio. Now, the comprehensive utilization ratio of timber in China is only 40 percent, compared with some 70 percent on average in the world. Relevant experts estimate that the increase of 1 percentage point of the comprehensive utilization ratio of timber may reduce the consumption by 400,000 cubic meters.

“We therefore should improve the technological level of current timber processing,” Lei said.

Lei said that imports of timber to China have increased a little in the recent three to five years, but basically have remained stable at a level of 20 million cubic meters of timber and artificial board. The import of timber alone fluctuated between 13 to 15 million cubic meters. It’s estimated that the level of import will be maintained. China will depend on its own – by enhancing cutting of artificial forests – to meet the market demand.

(china.org.cn May 15, 2002)

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