BEIJING, March 19 (Xinhua) -- China has big plans for its forests as environmental protection takes center stage after great achievements in "greening" the nation.
Protecting and developing forest reserves is now a central tenet of policy, deputy head of the State Forestry Administration (SFA) Zhang Yongli said during a tree-planting activity ahead of the International Day of Forests on March 21.
"China will continue environmental rehabilitation projects, including returning marginal farmland to forest, controlling sources of sandstorms in regions around Beijing and Tianjin and growing shelter forests," Zhang said.
There have been some eye-catching achievements in forestry with more than 6 million hectares of wood stock added each year since 2011.
While global forest resources keep shrinking, China has been increasing its forested area for over 30 years, Zhang said.
Worldwide, forests are now at about 50 percent of the ideal level, figures from the United Nations showed.
An SFA survey last year revealed that China had 208 million hectares of forest, an area bigger than Mexico, covering 21.6 percent of the country, up 1.3 percentage points from that five years before.
A VALUABLE INHERITANCE
"To save Earth," Chinese President Xi Jinping once said, "we have to save our forests first."
"We have inherited the forests from our ancestors and we should pass them on to our offspring," he said on another occasion.
Beyond the rapid economic growth that has awed the world, China is now doing everything it reasonably can to preserve, protect and restore the environment.
A forestation project, due for completion in 2050, plans to weave an enormous green belt across 13 desert regions in the arid northwest. The project has another 35 years to increase coverage to around 15 percent.
The latest measures demand that commercial logging of natural forests in key areas cease by 2020 and promises to reduce harvesting from man-made forests by 20 percent in the same timeframe.
China currently extracts about 50 million cubic meters of timber each year.
This year, over 600,000 hectares of marginal farmland will be returned to forest or grassland, and a further 6 million hectares of new forest will be planted.