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'Go West' encourages reforestation
( 2003-12-30 09:24) (China Daily by Guo Nei)

The central government will continue its drive to develop the country's vast western regions in the new year with more emphasis on seeking sustainable development, according to a plenary meeting of the State Council's guiding team for the development of the west.

At the meeting chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao yesterday in Beijing, it was agreed that the development of the west, which began four years ago, has been steady but remains a long-term task.

The implementation of the country's forestry programmes, including the programme to convert cultivated land into forests, will be pushed forward next year, agreed officials at the meeting. Most of the programmes are largely related to the western region.

A survey showed that this nationwide programme has helped improve local ecosystems and raise farmers' incomes, Xinhua News Agency reported yesterday.

The programme was carried out as an experiment in Northwest China's Shaanxi and Gansu provinces and in Southwest China's Sichuan Province in 1999 in a bid to rebuild a sound environment.

After successful implementation in these regions, the programme was put in place in 25 other provinces at the beginning of last year.

According to a survey conducted by the China International Engineering Consulting Corporation, the programme has basically reached national requirements and impacted western areas in a positive way.

For example, the area of land that is sparsely planted or not covered by plants in Yan'an and Yulin, in Northwest China's Shaanxi Province, decreased by 7.81 per cent from 1997 to 2002.

And by the end of 2002, more than 53 million farmers each received 215 kilograms of grain in subsidies.

The project offers annual subsidies of between 100 and 150 kilograms of food for each mu (0.067 hectares) of cultivated land the farmers have converted to forest.

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