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    20% forest cover promised
Zhao Huanxin
2006-02-28 05:41

A fifth of China's land area will have forest cover by 2010, the State Forestry Administration vowed yesterday.

Over the past five years, the percentage of China's land area covered by forests has risen from 16.6 per cent to 18.2 per cent, Jia Zhibang, chief of the forestry agency, told a press conference held by the State Council Information Office yesterday in Beijing.

"By 2010, the country will strive to raise the rate to 20 per cent."

Jia also revealed that for the first time since 1949, China is seeing a reversal of land area being degraded into deserts.

Desertification had expanded by 3,436 square kilometres a year by the late 1990s. Since 2001, however, such sandy land has shrunk by 1,283 square kilometres annually, according to Jia.

"It's the first time since the founding of the People's Republic of China that we brought about a reversal," he said.

He attributed the success partly to a national compulsory tree-planting campaign which started in 1982. Since 2001, China has planted more than 12 billion trees, or nearly 10 trees for each person, according to Jia.

In addition to tree planting, the country will continue a logging ban in the natural forest along most of the Yangtze and Yellow River reaches, while converting more farmlands to forests and grasslands.

Pandas are gifts

Jia also said that a giant panda couple, whose identity was unveiled by his agency earlier this year, were meant "free and unconditional" gifts to Taiwan people.

He denied Taiwan media reports claiming that any organization which wants to raise the giant panda couple needs to pay the mainland a certain amount of money annually.

"We have made it clear that the giant panda couple (Tuan Tuan and Yuan Yuan), to be presented to Taiwan compatriots, are a goodwill gift from mainland compatriots; it's free and unconditional," Jia said.

"We are also glad to offer free assistance in building a habitat for the panda couple and provide technical support for raising them."

The two giant pandas, selected from 23 candidates, live at the Wolong China Giant Panda Research Centre in Sichuan Province, Southwest China.

Other highlights of the press conference:

China will intensify research and use of genetically modified trees and flowers to help increase timber production and cultivate more flower species.

The State Forestry Administration has received sporadic reports of dead wild birds, but no report of bird flu outbreak among migratory birds across the country since last autumn.

(China Daily 02/28/2006 page1)


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