Nearly a quarter of China will be forested by 2020, according to the State Forestry Administration (SFA).
Speaking in Beijing yesterday, one of the administration's top officials, Zhou Shengxian, said forest coverage will reach 23 percent in the next 10 to 15 years, an increase of 5 percent.
"The increase in forests will outpace what the country consumed or lost during the growth of its economy," he said.
Zhou, director of the State Forestry Administration (SFA), said his agency has outlined a new strategy for the goal of pushing forward forestry development in the years ahead.
Addressing a televised conference in Beijing yesterday, he said new layouts have been set for planting trees throughout China with measures adjusted to local conditions.
"China's forestry development is now entering a turning point with six key programs to protect natural forests, wildlife and natural reserves, to prevent soil from eroding and grassland from turning into desert," Zhou said.
Forests have shrunk over the past few decades because of over-logging, he added, warning: "China's forestry industry still lags far behind its rapid economic growth. The present vegetation rate is only 61 percent of the world's average."
In the years ahead, he said, it is necessary to push forward planting across the country.
The administration director said forestry development would take shape throughout China with shelter belts expanding along east coast areas, desertification held in check in the underdeveloped western provinces, fast-growing and high-yielding forests growing in the south and natural forests fully protected in the north.
In east China, existing forests will be further consolidated along the country's prosperous coastal areas as a buffer against devastating storm tides, a major menace to the region's economy.
A comprehensive coastal forest belt of mangrove, offshore wetlands and tidal flats will be formed as shelter for coastal cities to mitigate damage from tsunamis or typhoons.
In western China, a "Green Great Wall," first envisioned in 1978 as a barrier to hold back ever-advancing sand dunes, will be build up as a natural shelter spanning northern, northwestern and northeastern drought-prone areas.
To protect the fragile ecosystem in western China, authorities will return infertile farmland to forest or grass.
In south China, shelter belts will be constructed along areas upstream of the Yangtze River, to support the fauna and flora of the river's water course.
Fast-growing trees will be planted to meet the country's increasing demand for timber along with the development of non-timber plantations such as bamboo and rattan.
In the north, SFA will prolong its strict logging ban, in place since 1998, for the virgin forests in northeastern provinces and the Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region.
About 1 million forestry workers from the two State-run natural forest bases will be involved in planting and forestry management.
(China Daily August 1, 2005)