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Forester helps turn mountains green

By Xuwei in Altay, Xinjiang (China Daily USA)

Updated: 2015-07-13 14:52:47

700,000 trees planted in project to reforest after massive logging

Xu Xiuqi could barely contain his sense of pride as he looked toward a mountain scattered with saplings near Altay in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region.

"It was difficult to plant them. It was much more difficult to keep them alive," the 63-year-old said.

Xu, who has been a landscape and forestry worker for more than 20 years, was re-employed after his retirement in 2000 as the city embarked on a project to plant trees across more than 3,330 hectares of barren mountain land around the city.

Now his job is to ride a motorcycle around the mountains to supervise the project, and to make sure that each sapling planted will survive the harsh natural conditions.

"My job is to find the problems, whether the trees have been properly cared for or not. If I can solve the problem, I will. If I cannot, I will report them to the authorities," he said.

Xu said the project was making the impossible possible, since nobody had ever dreamed about planting a forest on the dry barren mountains before. Located in the northernmost part of Xinjiang, Altay has a dry climate and sandy soil with little rain and high evaporation year-round.

However, Xu said it was never difficult to find enough passion for his job.

"We need to create wealth for our future generations. I will be immensely proud if my grandson pointed to the mountain and told people that it was afforested by his grandfather," he said.

"I will do it without pay, as long as my body allows me to do it," he said.

The city has so far managed to plant more than 665 hectares of barren mountain areas near the urban areas. Government officials and public sector staff make up most of the workforce mobilized for the project.

Ban Kun, an official with the landscape and forestry authority in the city, said the construction of roads and irrigation has been key to the success of the project.

"We need new roads to transport the saplings and irrigation equipment. Without irrigation, the trees cannot survive for even a week," he said. To ensure their survival, each tree on the mountain is connected to a drip irrigation system, and so far 700,000 trees have been planted.

To better facilitate the project, a reservoir is being constructed that will enable automatic irrigation once completed.

"We also need to find the right species for the mountain, as the trees have to survive droughts and harsh winters," he said. Local tree species have been a priority, and other species were also tested before planting.

Ban said the forestation project was, in his view, an effort to repay a debt, since the barren mountains were a result of massive logging in the 1960s.

"There was a large inflow of population in the 1960s, and the residents had to take wood from the mountains for heating to survive the cold winters," he said.

However, eventually all the trees were cut down and the environment deteriorated, he added.

"It was so easy to destroy the ecology, and is so difficult to restore it," he said.

Forester helps turn mountains green

(China Daily USA 07/13/2015 page6)