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China's Forest Shelter Project Dubbed 'Green Great Wall'

The Sanbei (north, northeast and northwest China) Forest Shelter project, dubbed the country's "green Great Wall", has contributed greatly to the improvement and conservation of ecological environment in the project areas since it was launched 28 years ago.

Under the project, 25.07 million hectares of trees were planted and are growing, forming a forest belt extending for more than 4,000 kilometers in the Sanbei areas, according to the State Forest Administration (SFA) on Sunday.

As a result, more than 20 percent of the lands affected by desertification in the project areas have been harnessed and soil erosion has been put under control in over 40 percent of the areas that used to suffer soil erosion in the past, according to SFA.

The forest shelter protected 20 million hectares of farmland from winds and sand storms, raising the grain output by 11 million tons annually.

Since 1978, trees have been planted in 551 counties of 13 provincial-level regions in northern, northeastern and northwestern China to form a long tree shield against desertification.

The eco-conservation project covers a total area of 4.069 million square kilometers, or 42.4 percent of China's total land area. In 2003, it was included in the Guinness World Records as the world's largest forestation project.

The Sanbei areas have 1.49 million square kilometers of desert and gobi, accounting for 98 percent of the country's total. Sand storms cause an economic loss of 4.5 billion yuan (US$562.5 billion) to the areas annually.

The situation has turned for the better thanks to the launching of the forest shelter project.

More than one million hectares of trees have been planted to conserve water sources in the project areas in the past 28 years, helping increase water sources by 330 million tons annually. A total of 912,000 hectares firewood trees were also planted, which produce more than 20 million tons of firewood annually for six million farmer households. The firewood trees also produce over 20 million tons of fresh and dried fruits annually, bringing a profit of 20 million yuan (US$2.5 million) to local people.

The forest shelter project also improved ecological environment of 30 million hectares of grassland, raising the fodder grass output by 4.45 million tons annually.

(Xinhua News Agency July 10, 2006)

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