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Forest Coverage More Than Doubled in China's Largest Green Project

China has grown and preserved a total of 24.46 million hectares of forest since 1978. That's when the country initiated its largest green project.

Since then, the forest coverage rate in affected regions more than doubled to 10.51 percent, according to statistics released by the State Forestry Administration (SFA) on Wednesday.

The national forest conservation project, covering 42.4 percent of the country's total area from the northwest to the northeast, is scheduled to be completed in 2050.

"The project has protected and recovered more than 300,000 square kilometers of degraded land suffering from decertification and salinization," said SFA head Jia Zhibang at a conference marking the 30th anniversary of the project.

Statistics showed more than 300 million tons of soil and sand in the region covered by the project have been saved from collapsing into the Yellow River. The establishment of the forest belt also helped protect 22.49 million hectare of farm land.

"At the same time, the large scale of forest building has boosted the agricultural industry," said Jia.

The amount of forested area within the 13 provinces, covered by the project, increased to the current 1.39 billion cubic meters from 720 million cubic meters 30 years ago, bringing about a 300 billion yuan increase in economic value.

According to Jia, farmers also benefited financially as one third or 36 million tons of the nation's annual fruit production came from 4 million hectares of non-wood forests planted during the multi-year project.

In addition, the project grew 927,000 hectares of firewood, providing more than eight million tons of fuel to seven million rural households.

It also resulted in the planting of more than five million hectares of shrubs, a major source for forage.

(Xinhua News Agency November 20, 2008)

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