The area set aside for trees covering Beijing and its adjacent areas of North China will be expanded from the present 6.7 per cent to 21.4 per cent by 2010.
The afforestation goal is expected to prevent sandstorms from hitting the region, said Jiang Zehui, director of the Chinese Academy of Forestry, at a forum promoting the public's understanding of ecosystem conservation, which opened yesterday in Beijing.
By 2010, the new afforested areas in Beijing and Tianjin municipalities, Hebei and Shanxi provinces and the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region are expected to include beautiful gardens surrounded by green mountains, blue skies and clear rivers and lakes, said Jiang.
In addition, the average area of forest coverage for the entire country will be enlarged from the current 16.5 per cent to 19.4 per cent by 2010.
The country will also establish more nature reserves for wild animals such as pandas, golden monkeys and antelopes, said Jiang, adding that these steps for ecosystem protection will ensure harmony between economic growth and sound environmental conservation.
China faces serious problems of soil erosion and desertification due to natural disasters as well as the public's ignorance of measures to protect the ecosystem.
China's desertification area accounts for 27 per cent of the country's total land area, and is increasing by 2,460 square kilometres each year.
Jiang said the concept of ecosystem conservation must be deeply planted into the public's consciousness.
The forum drew 150 scientists and environmentalists from the Afforestation Working Committee under the State Council, the State Environmental Protection Administration, the State Forestry Administration and other relevant governmental institutions. These groups have been asked to prescribe strategies for regional governments to better protect China's ecosystem and enhance the public's awareness of sustainable development.
Cheng Donghong, a senior official with the Chinese Association for Science and Technology, said the association - the country's largest non-governmental organization disseminating scientific knowledge to the public - will focus on popularizing the idea of sustainable development from the grassroots level up to governmental officials.
The concept of sustainable development was outlined in the United Nations' Agenda 21 at the UN Environment and Development Congress held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992.
(China Daily December 14, 2001)