China has kicked off a large "grain for green" project in Dongting Lake, a major wetland reserve for winter migratory birds on the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River.
Under the project, about 36,000 hectares of reclaimed land will be returned to forest, and trees will be planted in 31,000 hectares of barren hilly land and wasteland, local officials said.
According to the local government's requirements to control soil erosion, slope land above 25 degrees and farmland reclaimed before 1998 should be returned to its formal natural state for the tree planting effort.
To support the project, the central government will provide one billion yuan (US$67 million) of funds and grain this year.
Dongting Lake is not only an important ecological reserve but also a major grain and cotton production base in China. Its soil erosion conditions, however, have been aggravated due to excessive logging and unscientific farming.
Statistics suggested that an areas of some 44,000 square kilometers around the lake is plagued by soil erosion, with over 30 million tons of soil being washed down to the lake every year.
A pilot project to return reclaim land to woods around lake was started in August last year. Today, trees have been planted in more than 27,000 hectares of reclaimed land and the population of wildlife has been increasing in the project area.
China has a plan to return 330,000 hectares of reclaimed land to grassland and forest and plant trees and grass in 490,000 hectares of wasteland and slope land across the country this year. Total investment for this project will be 3.6 billion yuan (US$434 million).
According to officials with the State Forestry Administration, main targets of the national plan are areas around Dongting and Poyang lakes on the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze, and regions in north and northwest China suffering from serious sandstorms.
(Xinhua News Agency 07/30/2001)