Chen Siwa was very excited to see all his trees survive a severe winter this year in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, north China. "Without the new planting techniques devised by Greek Professor G Kallistratos, at least two third of my trees would have died", said Chen, 42, a native resident in the arid Togtoh county in Inner Mongolia.
Blizzards coupled with sandstorms plagued the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region from December 31 last year till January 3 this year, in weather that has been very rare in five decades.
More than 2 million local people were besieged, with other 29 confirmed dead. About 23 million heads of livestock were affected while more than 384,000 died. The blizzard damaged some 28 million hectares of grassland, local statistics revealed.
But fortunately, more than 400,000 trees, which had been fostered first in nutrition-filled packages before being planted, remain in good condition.
This new invention by Prof. Kallistratos, which claims to save much water and fertilizer and has a high survival rate of 95 percent, has been widely used in the autonomous region since it was introduced by the Ministry of Science and Technology.
The old way of planting trees, just digging a pit in the soil, inserting a sapling, adding some water and manure, then leaving the tree to grow by itself, only produced bare mountains, Zhang Hongjun, a neighbor of Chen, said.
Forests are not only the way to improve the environment, but they are considered "green banks" to the farmers here, with each tree worth about 200 yuan (US$24), Chen calculated.
Local residents used to grow corns, sunflowers and other drought enduring plants and trees, generating barely 1,500 yuan (over US$180) in net income per capita.
Having a hectare of high-yield and quick growing trees, Chen Siwa can expect an annual income of 1,000 yuan (US$120) when his trees grow up in five years.
Inner Mongolia, the northernmost region in China, is considered a biological shield protecting Beijing, the national capital, Tianjin Municipality and many other regions in north China.
But in recent years, the deteriorating ecological system has induced bad weather phenomenon such as acid rain, floating sand and sandstorms.
China plans to invest over 2 million yuan (nearly US$241,000) in the next 10 years to conquer poor soil and guard against worsening climate conditions.
The autonomous regional government of Inner Mongolia has been in a bid to introduce advanced foreign technologies for planting forests in recent years, including French bacterium plantation means, economic forests growing techniques from Australia, and Japan's technology of improving low-yield forests in sandy areas.
These technologies helped solve many problems in the drive of ecological and environmental amelioration in north China, commented Zou Lijie, a renowned Chinese ecologist and the senior engineer in the autonomous regional Forestry Office.
(People's Daily 03/12/2001)