Forests decimated by storms

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 10 February, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 10 February, 2008, 12:00am

About one-tenth of the mainland's forests have been damaged by the recent winter storms, Xinhua reported yesterday. Nearly 90 per cent of forests in the hardest-hit regions were ruined, it said.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Information Industry said the storms had caused 1.1 billion yuan in damage to the telecommunications sector. Ten million mobile-phone and fixed-line subscribers were still suffering disruption to services on Friday as a result of the bad weather.

Power had still not been restored to 24,000 base stations for mobile- phone services. Some 16,000km of cables carrying fixed-line services have been damaged and 150,000 telegraph poles have collapsed.

The State Forestry Administration said 17.3 million hectares of forest in 18 southern provinces had been lost. It did not assign any monetary value to the losses, but its earlier report said that by the end of last month the storms had caused about 16.2 billion yuan in damage to forests.

The mainland lacks forest cover. Trees take up only 18.2 per cent, or 175 million hectares, of the land, far short of the world's average of 30.8 per cent. However, the country tries to make up the deficit with forestation campaigns. In an emergency circular issued on Friday night, the forestry administration urged unaffected regions to expand seedling supply so that spring forestation would not be affected.

The administration also ordered its local branches to supervise the cleanup of fallen trees for fear that people might take advantage of the mess by indiscriminately chopping down trees and thus make the losses worse, Xinhua said.

Forestry administration spokesman Cao Qingyao warned that fallen trees could also pose a big fire hazard when the weather becomes warmer and the timber dries out.

'It is urgent to ensure water and power supply and telecommunications services in forest regions,' the circular said.

The administration, and eight other cabinet-level agencies and ministries, published a joint pamphlet listing practical techniques to facilitate reconstruction.

Blizzards across central, southern and eastern provinces - the worst in five decades - cut power to 169 counties, killed scores of people and caused unprecedented havoc for tens of millions of people travelling ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday.