BEIJING, April 3 (Xinhua) -- China's efforts to afforest about a quarter of its land remain resolute as the annual tree planting day of the capital city Beijing falls on Saturday amid dwindling cases of locally transmitted cases of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) nationwide.
The country plans to increase the afforested areas by 101 million mu (about 6.7 million hectares) by the end of this year, in order to fulfill a long-term afforestation plan of increasing forest coverage rate to 23.04 percent by 2020, and to 26 percent by 2035. Forest coverage rate stood at 22.96 percent by mid-March.
The epidemic will not substantially affect China's afforestation progress this year, said Zhang Jianguo, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Forestry. He noted that current horticultural technology allows for far longer periods in a year suitable for planting trees.
Even so, many people across China have rolled up their sleeves to try to make up for being days behind the greening schedule. Trees most suitable to grow in spring, like smoke bush and apricot, were planted first to save time, while migrant workers in provinces like Jiangxi and Hebei who could not return to their workplaces due to travel restrictions were recruited to further the cause.
During China's annual National Tree Planting Day on March 12, when many quarantine rules were still in place, municipalities nationwide kept shovels wielding with innovative touches.
Southwest China's Chongqing instructed volunteers to keep "a safe distance" from each other when planting trees, while other cities assembled small groups of volunteers to plant trees on behalf of hundreds of public-spirited residents.
Chongqing ended up adding 230,000 trees to its green expanse on this year's Arbor Day, local data showed.
Local governments have sought to facilitate work resumption for horticultural projects, with the city of Qinhuangdao in Hebei connecting suppliers with construction firms in the absence of its annual seedling trade fair that was canceled over COVID-19 concerns.
As there is no quarantining of love for nature, those who were unable to plant trees themselves have chipped in through "cloud planting."
The country's internet-based greening campaign allows residents to adopt trees by paying due contributions online or garner enough credits on the mobile payment app Alipay by performing low-carbon activities like renting a bike or taking public transportation in exchange for a real tree to be nurtured in their names.
"I hope to see my eight-year-old grandson grow up with the seedling I adopted and to teach him about protecting the environment," said Cai, a 60-year-old Shanghai local who adopted a magnolia tree in the city's botanical garden.
China has vowed to maintain its efforts to promote greening despite the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, as was reflected in an earlier State Council circular urging region-specific approach in the respect.
Official data showed the country had fulfilled 12.9 percent of the annual afforestation target by early March, and 92 percent of forest enterprises outside the COVID-19 hardest-hit Hubei Province had resumed business activities by March 22.