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China to Restore Mangrove Forests

China's southernmost island province of Hainan will build a mangrove belt on its 9,600 hectares of coastal beaches in the next five to ten years, said the provincial forestry administration.
The provincial government will close some beaches for tree planting, in addition to the artificial afforestation so as to rebuild a "green barrier" along the coastal line.
During the past few years, Hainan spent 31.9 million yuan (US$3.9 million) in planting 4.25 million hectares of forests, including quite a proportion along the coastal shelter belts.
It is just one examples of China carrying out its plan to restore the mangroves and shrubs that live in tropical tidal zones after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
In south China's Guangdong Province, the local government is also making efforts to restore and expand the mangrove forests.
The province planted 2,613 hectares of mangrove trees in 2004 and opened nine preserves of wetland mangroves, including two at the state level, covering 8,256 hectares of mangrove.
China will have 95,100 hectares of mangrove forests by 2010, said Zhou Shengxian, director of the State Forestry Bureau (SFA), who added that to achieve this goal, the government will invest 1.3 billion yuan (US$157 million).
This is all done to make up for past loss, Zhou said. China's mangrove forests were seriously felled and ruined during the past decades.
Statistics from the SFA show that half a century ago China had more than 60,000 hectares of mangrove forests, but the campaign of reclaiming farmland from the sea, a large scale aquatic products breeding project and some other construction projects shrunk the forests to a mere 20,000 hectares.  
The mangrove forests, as well as coral reefs and sand dunes, are a buffer against tsunamis and storm surges, said Zhou.
Thanks to the mangrove forests, more than 400 families stayed safe in 4 villages in Tamil Nadu, one of the most severely damaged places in southern India in the 2004 tsunami, the official said.
The mangrove forests will counteract a large proportion of the energy from the sea waves. Though the forest itself may be destroyed, the infrastructures behind it will be in a safe condition, said John Pernetta, a project director for the United Nations Environment Program.
A country with a coastline of 32,000 kilometers, China came to realize that more than being decorative plants, mangrove forests are coastal guards that can not be replaced by anything else, the official said.
Zhou said the Chinese government has already realized the stern situation and is taking measures against any actions to destroy the mangroves.
Zhu Xuancheng, director of the provincial forestry administration said Hainan has solved 1151 cases concerning coastal forest destruction, arresting 31 suspects since 1998.
The province also enacted China's first set of laws on mangrove protection in 2004.

(Xinhua News Agency July 18, 2005)

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