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N. China's forest belt doubles tree coverage
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The Sanbei forest belt, a massive project launched in 1978 in north China, has effectively contained desertification and helped farmers find jobs, a forestry official said Wednesday.

So far, 24.46 million hectares of forest have been created, raising the forest coverage rate from 5.05 percent in 1977 to 10.51 percent now, said Pan Yingzhen, director of the Sanbei Protection Forest Construction Bureau under the State Forestry Administration.

More than 300,000 square kilometers of once-desertified land had been treated and 10 million ha of degraded pasture had been restored, he said.

Sanbei stands for "three norths," referring to north, northeast and northwest China. Since 1978, trees have been planted in 590 counties of 13 provincial-level regions to form a long shield against desertification.

Farmers have benefited from a commercial forest industry that is part of the project, said the official.

The Sanbei areas have 5,000 timber-processing plants that employ more than 700,000 people, he added.

(Xinhua News Agency June 18, 2009)

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