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Forests to Open Further to Ecotourism
China is expected to open up 14 million hectares (34.594 million acres) of land to ecological tourism by 2005, according to an official from the State Forestry Administration.

Zhu Lieke, deputy director of the administration, said the number of forest parks is expected to total 1,450 in three years' time.

He was speaking at the opening ceremony of China's first Forest Scenery Resources Exposition and Tianmu Mountain Forest Tourism Festival.

The event began on Saturday in Lin'an, a city some 90 kilometers (55.926 miles) west of Hangzhou, the capital of East China's Zhejiang Province. It will end tomorrow.

Zhu said he was confident that 100 key well-known forest parks - including national nature reserves across China - will be ready to receive 150 million visitors every year and generate 60 billion yuan (US$7.2 billion) for the sustainable development of China's forestry resources.

He said he hopes that, in this way, "China can seek an effective way to maintain the sustainable use of forestry resources instead of only consuming and destroying resources" as in the past.

Citizens' awareness of environmental protection can also be increased with the help of ecotourism.

The State Forestry Administration is using the event to show elaborate works and forest tourism programs available in major forest parks and national nature reserves throughout the country.

Since 1982, China has set up 1,200 forest parks, covering 10 million hectares (24.71 million acres) of land. Of these, 379 parks have been listed at State level, giving them much better protection and a higher level of management.

To date, 909 nature reserves with a combined area of 102 million hectares (252.04 million acres) have also been established across China to conserve the rich biodiversity of fauna and flora and retain its unique variety of wild species.

Seven of the reserves have been listed in the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance. Five others, including Jiuzaigou in Southwest China's Sichuan Province, have been added to the World Natural and Cultural Heritage List of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

More than 100 million tourists visited China's forest parks and nature reserves last year. They provided 50 billion yuan (US$6 billion) in income, up 25 percent over the previous year.

(China Daily June 11, 2002)

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