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China Loses One-tenth of Forest to Snow Havoc

A total of 17.3 million hectares of forests, about one-tenth of China's forest resources, have been damaged by the unprecedented snow wreckage in at least five decades, with forests, bamboo and seedlings in some parts of the country seriously destroyed.

In its latest report released on Friday, the State Forestry Administration (SFA) confirmed the total losses of forest in 18 provinces in southern China, saying that in the worst-hit region, nearly 90 percent of forests had been ruined.

The administration didn't give any figure for the value of the losses. Previous SFA report showed that by January 31, disastrous winter weather had levied a toll of 16.2 billion yuan (about US$2.5 billion) in China's forestry sector.

An emergency SFA circular required its local branches to organize and monitor timely clean-up of fallen trees for fear that individuals or groups might take advantage of the mess to indiscriminately fell trees and worsen the losses.

It also urged places unaffected by the disaster to expand seedling supply to secure spring forestation that usually starts in early April.

Cao Qingyao, a SFA spokesman, warned earlier this month that trees killed by winter frost in the southern regions could lead to fire disasters when the weather gets warmer.

Dead trees and broken branches would significantly increase the amount of inflammable materials in the forests.

The northern region, however, would suffer from less rain in the first two months of the year, and dry plants are also vulnerable to flames.

"It is the imminent tasks to secure water and power supply and telecommunications in forest regions and to restore facilities in forest parks and nature reserves," said the SFA circular.

"Abnormal death of migrant birds and wild life should also be carefully handled and immediately reported in order to avoid possible outbreak of animal epidemics," it said.

Similar warning also came Friday from the State Council, China's Cabinet, as the snow disaster may have so weakened livestock that they may be vulnerable to epidemics like avian influenza and blue-ear pig disease.

Farmers were required to carefully examine their breeding facilities, clean up snow and reinforce damaged pens to secure proper indoor temperatures for livestock. Dead poultry and domesticated animals must be subject to harmless treatment and be banned from the market, the State Council said.

(China Daily February 10, 2008)

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