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Environment Projects on Target
Six key forestry projects designed to stave off desertification and soil erosion while saving endangered species in China are progressing smoothly.

The aim is to eradicate major ecological plagues while providing sustainable economic growth, Lei Jiafu, vice-director of the State Forestry Administration (SFA), said yesterday.

The 20-billion-yuan (US$2.4 billion) plan was approved by the State Council in 2000 and has begun in 17 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities nationwide, Lei said.

The six projects, spanning from 2001 to 2015, are:

Protection of natural forests;

Construction of shelter-forests in North China and along the Yangtze River;

Turning crop land into forests;

Sandstorm control around the capital;

Building of wildlife reserves;

Cultivation of the fast-growing timber plantation industry.

The natural forests protection project has yielded an additional 14.6 million hectares of forest and grassland along the upper reaches of the Yangtze River and the upper and middle reaches of the Yellow River since it was launched in 2000.

Following the success of some pilot programmes, the other five key projects are expected to be in full swing by the end of this year, Lei said.

More than 2.1 million hectares of cultivated land has been turned into forest and grassland since last year.

More than 160 new nature reserves have been established, putting the country's total nature reserves and forestry parks at 1,156, State statistics show.

To form a "Green Great Wall," at least 3.8 million hectares of forests are expected to be planted by 2010, in North China, Northwest China and Northeast China; along the middle reaches of the Yellow River; and in Beijing and its surrounding area.

"The country's six key forestry programmes have gradually changed the image of the forestry sector from a lucrative industry to a basic pillar in ecological protection and sustainable development," Lei said.

Commercial logging of natural forests is now banned in 13 provinces and autonomous regions, upstream reaches of the Yangtze River and along areas of the middle and upper reaches of the Yellow River.

In the past, forestry was considered a basic industry to the national economy. China's 135 State-run forest farms employ one million workers.

Thanks to forestry protection initiatives, workers who used to earn their living by logging have shifted to large-scale tree-planting and other businesses on reforested land.

The project has earmarked more than 6 billion yuan (US$737 million) for the logging ban and massive afforestation efforts, SFA officials said. The funds have also been used to help resettle 502,000 loggers forced to put down their axes so that China can protect its forest resources.

But insufficient funding has remained a long-term headache for forestry authorities. Poor planning and co-ordination among different regions and related departments have also exacerbated those problems, officials said.

(People's Daily May 15, 2002)

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