Extensive reforestation in China makes Earth greener

By Yang Sheng Source:Global Times Published: 2019/2/16 0:08:39 Last Updated: 2019/2/16 22:29:45

Nation eyes 26% green coverage by 2035

Photo: NASA


Photo taken on Aug. 25, 2018 shows plants growing in a desertification combating demonstration zone in Minqin County, northwest China's Gansu Province. Photo: Xinhua

China's huge and consistent efforts in reforestation to deal with soil erosion, air pollution and climate change has also contributed to global environmental protection, Chinese analysts said as NASA released data to prove China's major contributions to global forestation.

China highly values reforestation since the country has paid a price with incorrect deforestation, including desertification, soil erosion and sandstorms, especially in the north and northwest of China, said Dai Xingyi, a professor at the Department of Environmental Science and Engineering of Shanghai's Fudan University. 

Yang Weixi, former chief engineer at the sand prevention and control office of the State Administration of Forestry, told the Global Times that "about eight years ago, nearly one-tenth of China's territory was occupied by 1.1 million square kilometers of desert in the north and northwest. This means that it was almost impossible to eliminate the source of sandstorms through manpower."

"But now we hardly experience sandstorms in most cities in China, which means the reforestation and China's prevention and control of desertification have led to remarkable achievements," Yang noted.

A new study using data from NASA satellites shows that China and India, the two most populous countries in the world, are leading the increase in greening on land and concludes that the "effect comes mostly from ambitious tree-planting programs in China and intensive agriculture in both countries." The study was published on Monday in the journal Nature Sustainability.

The researchers found that the global green leaf area has increased by 5 percent since the early 2000s, an area equivalent to the Amazon rainforests. At least 25 percent of that gain came in China.

'Grain for Green'

China initiated its "Grain for Green" program in 1999 as an ambitious conservation program designed to mitigate and prevent flooding and soil erosion. This is the largest ecological construction project in human history, which involved 124 million people in 1,897 counties in 25 provinces. According to forestry.gov.cn, the website of the National Forestry and Grassland Administration, from 2013 to 2018, China planted 338,000 square kilometers of forests at a cost of $82.88 billion.

The program is designed to retire farmland susceptible to soil erosion, although some farmers may return to farming the land after the program ends. China started the "Grain for Green" program in the northwestern parts of the country. 

These areas were known for their poorly performing economies affiliated to an endangered ecological environment. The environment was being further damaged by soil erosion which was a result of cultivation on sloping land as people were changing forests into farmland.

The main achievement of reforestation in China is also in the north and northwest of the country, Dai told the Global Times. "China's reforestation is a nationwide strategy that combined efforts among almost every group of the country, including civil servants, students, military personnel and villagers in rural regions."

For instance, Yan'an, a city in Northwest China's Shaanxi Province, has planted 20 million mu (about 13,333 square kilometers) of forests since 1999, which expanded green to the north by about 400 kilometers, according to a report by the Xinhua News Agency on Thursday.

This achievement was realized by the joint efforts of the local government and people. Millions of villagers were organized by Party members working in rural areas, and reforestation has also brought financial gains to the locals, since the per capita income of Yan'an has increased about 10 times since 1999 due to the development of forestry and ecological agriculture. 

China aims to increase the forest coverage to 23.04 percent by 2020, and to 26 percent by 2035, Xinhua reported.

Sharing experiences 

China is also sharing its successful experiences on reforestation with other countries. 

Luo Bin, deputy director of the desertification control office of the State Forestry Administration, said that deserts are spreading in many countries along the Belt and Road route and their fragile ecosystems have greatly restrained these countries' economic and societal development.

In 2016, China organized a forum on dealing with desertification which involved more than 100 countries along the routes of the Belt and Road Initiative.

For instance, the successful project to control desertification in Inner Mongolia has been promoted in countries like Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Australia.

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