More than 100 million mu (6.6 million hectares) of cultivated land in China will be converted back to forests next year.
The amount is 20 million mu (1.3 million hectares) more than the planned area for this year.
Statistics from the State Forestry Administration show the area of cultivated land that has been turned back to forests this year had exceeded 60 million mu (4 million hectares) by the end of November.
The country started to implement the project of converting cultivated land back to forests all over the country at the beginning of the year, building on the success of pilot projects in some provinces.
Li Yucai, vice-head of the administration, called on governments at all levels to make more efforts to establish archives for the project.
This would enable the situation of every household involved in the project to be traced, including whether they are subsidized properly or not.
Such archives are closely linked to the interest of the farmers involved, Li said at a national conference in Changsha, capital of Central China's Hunan Province.
The project will offer annual subsidies of 100 to 150 kilograms of foodstuffs for each mu (one fifteenth of a hectare) of cultivated land the farmers have converted to forest.
In addition, for each mu of converted land, farmers are paid 20 yuan (US$2.4) each year and are also provided with saplings by the government free of charge.
Li said the project will enter a crucial period next year as the evaluation of achievements in pilot regions will start and the time limit for subsidies in some regions will expire.
According to current policies, subsidies for farmers will last for five years if cultivated land is converted to economic forests, and eight years if it is converted to ecological forests.
The quality of forests planted should be given the top priority in implementing the project, Li said.
China is implementing six major forestry projects in a bid to improve its degraded ecological system and rebuild the landscape.
The six projects include the project of protecting natural forests, the project of converting cultivated land back to forests, the project of preventing sandstorms in the Beijing-Tianjin rim, the project of building shelter belts in the "three norths" (Northwest, Northeast and North China), the project of protecting wildlife, and the project of establishing commercial forests.
(China Daily December 7, 2002)