This year after placing a logging ban along the Yangtze and Yellow rivers, China has started an ambitious program to convert farmland to forests in its 24 provinces.
One of the six key programs to protect forests in China is the plan to convert 14.66 million hectares of farmland into forests and to cover 17.33 million hectares of barren land with trees by 2010.
The trial projects were implemented last year and the program was formally launched this year, said Lei Jiafu, deputy director of the State Forestry Administration (SFA), at a press conference in Beijing Tuesday.
Two of the programs have already started, and the remaining four will be launched by the end of this year, he said.
The six key programs, lasting ten to 15 years, cover 97 percent of all China's counties and 760 million hectares of trees will be planted under the programs.
Their aim is to protect natural forests, wildlife and natural reserves, to prevent soil from eroding and grassland from turning into desert.
The Chinese government expects to increase the forest coverage rate to 26 percent or higher through the six programs, Lei said.
"But the increasing population and rapid economic growth have caused huge demands for timber and given the programs problems," he said, "We have had some problems with finance for the programs."
China now has planted 46.66 million hectares of trees and increased the forest coverage from 8.6 percent some 50 years ago to the present 16.55 percent, but is still unable to meet the domestic demand for 370 million cubic meters of timber annually.
Meanwhile, the environment is worsening with the shrinking of forests. About 170 million hectares of land have begun to turn into desert, accounting for 18.2 percent of China's total land area, of which 52 million hectares may recover. There are 360 million hectares suffering from soil erosion, taking up 38.2 percent of the total.
(Xinhua News Agency May 15, 2002)