China goes green for the economy

Beijing - China plans to have a quarter of the country covered by forest within 15 years as it tries to repair the damage loggers have done to fuel the runaway economy, state media said on Monday.

The State Forestry Administration said forest coverage will reach 23 percent in the next 10 to 15 years, an increase of five percent.

"The increase in forests will outpace what the country consumed or lost during the growth of its economy," administration director Zhou Shengxian was quoted as saying by the China Daily.

Addressing a conference in Beijing, he said new plans have been made for planting trees throughout China.

"China's forestry development is now entering a turning point with six key programmes to protect natural forests, wildlife and natural reserves, to prevent soil from eroding and grassland from turning into desert," Zhou said.

Forests have shrunk over the past few decades because of over-logging.

"China's forestry industry still lags far behind its rapid economic growth. The present vegetation rate is only 61 percent of the world's average," he said.

He said forestry development would take shape throughout China, with shelter belts expanding along east coast areas and desertification held in check in underdeveloped western provinces.

The east of China is regularly whipped by typhoons and storms, proving a major menace to the economy, and Zhou said a comprehensive coastal belt of mangrove, offshore wetlands and tidal flats would be planted as shelter.

In the west a "Green Great Wall," first envisioned in 1978 as a barrier to hold back ever-advancing sand dunes, would finally be planted.

To protect the fragile ecosystem in western China authorities will return infertile farmland to forest or grass.

Fast-growing trees will be planted to meet the country's never-ending demand for timber along with the development of bamboo and rattan plantations, the report said.

About one million forestry workers will be involved in planting and forestry management, it added. - Sapa-AFP

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