Zhu pushes green task for economy
Market forces should play a greater role in the Government's reforestation campaign, Premier Zhu Rongji has said.
The Premier made the remarks at a recent conference held to discuss how to integrate the reforestation programme into the Government's expensive scheme to develop its northwest provinces, according to Xinhua yesterday.
The comments coincided with warnings from Chen Qingtai, the deputy director of the Development and Research Centre of the State Council, that the mainland's environment was continuing to worsen.
Under the slogan 'Stop Farming, Turn Crop Fields Back to Forest and Grassland', the Government is now asking farmers to restore the country's green cover.
Although details of the programme remained sketchy and varied, farmers in some villages were asked to lay down their ploughs to plant trees or turn their fields into meadows or grasslands. In return, the Government is offering free grains and saplings, and a small amount of subsidies.
Mr Zhu told cadres they should consider allowing market forces to play a greater role in the reforestation drive.
Not only should farmers not be forced to join the programme, cadres should consider giving them cash so they could buy saplings of their choice on the market, he said.
'This will enable farmers to choose saplings suitable for their own fields and increase the survival rate of trees and vegetation,' Mr Zhu was quoted as saying.
Environmentalists applauded the Government's decision to save the country's fast-dwindling forest resources, but said forestation programmes took decades to bear fruit, and doubted cadres would press on once the political pressure was eased.
They said although senior leaders had repeatedly stressed their commitment to restoring China's environmental health, they had not yet outlined how the central Government would share the financial burden with local authorities in carrying out the programme.
It has also been reported that many farmers were reluctant to take part in the programme because they were sceptical of the policy lasting.
Speaking at a science forum in Shandong province's Qingdao city yesterday, Mr Chen, of the State Council, warned that although China's economy was booming, the country's environment had deteriorated.
He said China had lost 420,000 square km of farmland in the past 50 years.