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China to Build Ecological Safe Belt in Tibet

China plans to establish a series of eco-system protection zones and forest reserves in Tibet to curb the environmental degradation in the region, local officials said Monday.

The belt is part of China's efforts to strengthen eco-security, said Zhang Tianhua, deputy director of the regional Environmental Protection Administration at a press conference on Monday

The central government is expected to allocate 38.7 billion yuan (US$4.84 billion) to support the protection of the environment in Tibet between 2006 and 2020.

The central budget will also fund programs like the recovery of degraded grasslands, desertification control and the settlement of herdsmen.

Although the regional government has carried out a series of projects on environmental protection in recent years, sandstorms, grassland degradation and desertification still haunt the region due to the lack of integrated planning of these projects, and inadequate understanding of its importance to the global eco-environment, said Zhang.

According to the new plan, the central government aims to recover 14.96 million hectares of grassland from pastures and restore another 4.2 million hectares of grassland in Tibet, which will put 77 percent of the region's medium-degraded grassland under protection, said Zhang.

In addition, with 8.34 million hectares of original forest included within nature reserves and 4.368 million hectares of woods recovered and planted, 78 percent of the region's forest will be placed under protection, he said.

The expansion of vegetation coverage in Tibet will help alleviate the impact of sandstorms on China's eastern regions and contribute to the global carbonic balance by keeping 24.5 million tons of carbon per year in the region's ecosystems, said Doje, chief engineer of the regional geological prospecting institute, who is also one of the project designers.

As many Asian rivers originate in Tibet, the launch of the environmental projects will not only ensure the eco-security of China but that of the cross-border rivers, securing the sustainable exploitation of international water resources, said Doje.

The projects will also contribute to world efforts to protect biodiversity, as 125 species of precious wild animals and 39 kinds of precious wild plants in the region on plateau will be protected, he said.

(Xinhua News Agency June 6, 2006)

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