Dubbed the country's "Green Great Wall" the Sanbei Forest Shelter project which includes north, northeast and northwest China has made a significant contribution to improving and conserving the ecological environment in these areas since it got underway 28 years ago.
As a result of the project 25.07 million hectares of trees were planted which form a forest belt extending for more than 4,000 kilometers in the Sanbei areas, explained the State Forest Administration (SFA) on Sunday.
As a result more than 20 percent of the land affected by desertification in the project zone has been brought under control and soil erosion has been controlled in over 40 percent of the areas traditionally affected by erosion, said the SFA.
The forest shelter protects 20 million hectares of farmland from winds and sand storms and assisted raise the grain output by 11 million tons annually.
Since 1978 trees have been planted in 551 counties of 13 provincial-level regions in northern, northeastern and northwestern China to form a long green shield to protect against desertification.
The eco-conservation project covers a total area of 4.069 million square kilometers which is 42.4 percent of China's total land area. In 2003 it was included in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's largest forestation project.
The Sanbei area has 1.49 million square kilometers of desert and gobi accounting for 98 percent of the country's total. It's estimated that the sandstorms cause an economic loss of 4.5 billion yuan (US$562.5 billion) in these areas annually.
However, the situation is now improving thanks to the forest shelter project.
More than one million hectares of trees have been planted to assist conserve water resources within the project areas helping to increase water resources by 330 million tons annually. A total of 912,000 hectares of firewood type trees have also been planted which produce more than 20 million tons of firewood annually for six million farming households. These trees also produce over 20 million tons of fresh and dried fruits annually which bring profits of 20 million yuan (US$2.5 million) to local people.
The forest shelter project will also assist improve the ecological environment of 30 million hectares of grassland and raise the fodder grass output by 4.45 million tons annually.
(Xinhua News Agency July 10, 2006)