March 12, National Tree Planting Day, has been celebrated with enthusiasm since it began in 1979. Tree planting has become a way of life for the Chinese people, with millions of citizens volunteering to help make the country greener.
Tree planting is something of a tradition, marking the beginning of children’s schooling, enrollment in college or enlistment in the military, or a wedding or birthday.
Many trees are planted in special places in honor of outstanding civil servants, model workers, journalists, and Party members, and to help raise public awareness of environmental protection.
“Each spring, citizens have a duty to plant trees. There will be dozens of places open to the public for tree planting in urban areas, particularly in metropolises like Beijing and Shanghai,” said Zhou Lijun, an official with the National Afforestation Commission (NAC) in Beijing.
Most places provide free planting kits, and people can buy various kinds of saplings for prices ranging from 20 to 40 yuan (US$2.40 to US$4.80).
In rural areas “planting more trees to get rich” has become a popular slogan, since farmers can sell some of their mature trees to make money.
People are also allowed to donate money for tree planting if they are too busy to attend afforestation season events, NAC experts say.
National Tree Planting Day grew into a national voluntary tree-planting campaign in the early 1980s, after a 1981 resolution by China’s top legislature declared that every healthy Chinese citizen older than 11 has a duty to plant three to five trees each year without pay.
Last year, nearly 560 million people planted more than 2.5 billion trees throughout China. The cumulative number of volunteers has reached 8.8 billion, with more than 42 billion trees planted between 1982 and 2003, according to the NAC.
China is now home to a world-record 46 million hectares of cultivated trees.
(China Daily March 12, 2004)