The speed and scale of afforestation in China both rank first in the world. In the past two decades, volunteers participating in the national tree-planting movement throughout the country have planted over 35 billion trees. The pace of afforestation has quickened. At present, the total area afforested by aerial sowing has accumulated to 8.68 million ha, and the area of hillsides closed to facilitate afforestation has reached 34 million ha. Today, the forest coverage rate in China has increased to 16.55 percent, and both the area and reserves of forests have increased. In 12 provinces and autonomous regions, practically all the barren hills and wasteland suitable for afforestation have been covered by greenery.
North of the Great Wall there is a “Green Great Wall”—the “Three Norths” (Northwest, North and Northeast) Shelterbelt—running parallel to the former. Recognized as the “largest ecological protection project” by UN environmental protection officials, this shelterbelt ranges from Binxian County in Heilongjiang Province in the east to the Uzbel Pass in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in the west. It is 4,480 km long, covering 13 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities. Since the 1970s, when the construction of the shelterbelt was started, the total afforestation area has reached over 20 million ha, effectively curbing desertification in north China. Another new ecological protection project which was undertaken in the past few years is the protection of natural forests. Lumbering in natural forests has been banned nationwide. In many areas, lumbermen have assumed new roles as forest rangers.