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Plan set to limit desertification
( 2003-10-28 09:35) (China Daily)

China is set to further limit expansion of desertified land to create a better living environment for people who inhabit such areas, said a senior forestry official.

The country expects to increase its forest coverage by 1.7 million hectares by planting 9.3 million hectares of trees and grass.

The plan was outlined by Jiang Zehui, president of Chinese Academy of the Forestry Sciences, at a recent international workshop on combating desertification.

In China, desertification affects over 27 per cent, or 2.674 million square kilometres, of the total national territory, causing direct economic losses of 54 billion yuan (US$6.6 billion) each year, according to Cai Yansong, chairman of China National Sand Control and Desert Industry Society.

Preventing and controlling desertification is a major task challenging China, and also a principal part of the ecological development goal of the country's Western Region Development Programme.

Desertification is a major factor in the environmental deterioration in the country's western regions, where over 90 per cent of the total desertified lands of the entire country are located, revealed Jiang.

She said it has become the most severe ecological problem and the principal factor constraining economic and social development in the western regions.

The country will stick to the principle of making protection of the environment a top priority, and will regulate people's actions through legal measures and stop any form of agriculture causing further damage in such areas, she said.

Severely desertified crop lands will be converted into forest land and grassland, said Jiang.

She added that forest barriers will be planted in desertified areas and their marginal belts, taking into account local conditions, planting a mix of trees, shrubs and grasses to build up a botanically diverse forest shelter belt.

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