China continues to be a highly polluting country, but at the same time it is witnessing a true ‘green miracle’: its government has launched a plan that is rapidly reforesting the vast nation, with large desert areas. Every year, the forest gains 50,000 square kilometers of surface and 70,000 million euros have been invested in this in the last five years.
Saihanba is an area located in the northernmost region of Hebei province in China. It is a large forest park that has an area of 200 square kilometersbut until 60 years ago it was totally desert and sterile, affected by overexploitation of forests and strong sand storms that devastated this region since the 17th century.
However, the Chinese authorities decided to get down to work and in mid-1962 the State Forestry Administration of the Chinese Government gave the green light for the reforestation project in the territory. The objective was really ambitious: to turn this area into a vegetable lung for the north of China.
In this way, the Saihanba Mechanical Forest Farm began to develop the strategy that aimed to turn the area into a green oasis. That was how 369 foresters started the recovery of the area of more than 20,000 hectares, work that was continued by three generations of Chinese foresters. In fact, in the first moments only failures were harvested and it was necessary to rectify strategies and persist in the attempt to obtain the first fruits, only much later.
The largest artificial forest in the world
This artificial forest is one of the main banners of the Sustainable China plan, promoted by the Government. More than 618 different species have been planted in the forest park, including 312 genera of vascular plants.
To obtain this result, numerous challenges had to be faced, since the climatic conditions of the region have been one of the main problems for the development of the forest.
In winter, the frosts reach temperatures of up to minus 43 degrees centigrade, while the mildly warm days barely last a couple of months. Due to these conditions, foresters developed artificial crop technologies. It was like that, from an initial rate of survival of species of 8% (in the first years) it went to a rate of 98%.
Today, Saihanba has a plant cover of 80%which is capable of preserving and purifying about 137 million cubic meters of water per year, according to Chinese government data. In turn, the Chinese Forestry Academy assures that this forest farm can absorb more than 860,000 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) and release another 600,000 tons of oxygen annually.
In 2017, the United Nations awarded the Chinese man-made forest with the Champions of the Earth Award, in recognition of its environmental contribution, restoring a totally degraded landscape. In this regard, Xi Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China, has expressed his “pride” for the work done in this forest. For this reason, the president urges to “preserve the spirit of Saihanba” to deepen the ecological conservation of the country.
China shoots up its forest area
But this forest is but a small drop of water in a great ocean of Chinese greening. The progress made by the Asian giant in terms of planting forests is of surprising proportions.
At the beginning of the 21st century, the Chinese government announced the implementation of a reforestation plan in all the country. The goal: to turn China into an eco-civilization, covering this territory in green, many of whose parts have been severely affected since the late 1990s by weather phenomena.
Thus, environmental deterioration then became a state problem. With a country practically converted into a huge desert, and a forest mass that barely reached 14% of its surface. Since 2001, according to official figures from the State Forestry Administration, China has been recovering, on average, 50,000 square kilometers of forest area per year (more than twice the area of the Valencian Community and somewhat more than Aragon).
By the end of 2020, almost a quarter of China’s territory was covered in green, the equivalent of almost 20 million hectares. According to environmental experts, China would have already reached 25% forest cover, what is necessary to become an eco-civilization. This translates into a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions of 18% and water savings of close to 23%, details the report green is gold.
For its part, investment in reforestation has been around 70,000 million euros in the last five years. Restrictions and sanctions on companies that practice deforestation are increasing. There is no other country in the world that has recovered as many green areas as China in this century. However, the country continues to lead the list of CO2 emitting nations. And 27% of its territory is still arid.
There is still much to do, but the efforts to decontaminate the country through green coverage are indisputable. And its effects, little by little, are noticeable in the population. In Beijing alone, the risk of sandstorms in the spring has been reduced by 70% over the last decade. Artificial forests are fulfilling part of their mission.
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