Greening campaign sees fruits of labour

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 14 March, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 14 March, 2004, 12:00am

Efforts to create more green space on the mainland have apparently paid off, with more than 11 million hectares of green land created last year, according to an official report.

In its recently released 2003 report, the National Afforestation Commission said that for the first time, the annual growth rate of green space created represented more than 1 per cent of the nation's land.

The commission said this was mostly the result of national tree planting and farmland idling programmes, aimed at preventing soil erosion and desertification. The report said the amount of land covered by newly planted trees increased by 9.3 million hectares, 19 per cent more than the previous year.

More than 2.5 billion tree seedlings were planted by hand and aerial methods with more than 550 million people taking part.

However, environmental experts said the figures did not reflect the quality of green areas as they fail to account for factors such as how many of the seedlings survive.

The forestation programme faces serious challenges.

Officials in some areas are reopening previously protected land for farming. In addition, some local governments are refusing to take part because of lack of money.

The central government has provided resources for tree seedlings and subsidies to help farmers stop tilling the land, but local cadres are responsible for covering the cost of carrying out the schemes.

Despite these difficulties, the central government plans to expand the afforestation programme. Last week, the Chinese Academy of Forestry announced a target of 25 per cent forest coverage by 2050.