Laura Oliver / World Economic Forum & Xinhua News & Asia Times – 2018-10-13 15:13:32
China Has Sent 60,000 Soldiers to Plant Trees
Laura Oliver / World Economic Forum
(February 16, 2018) — China has given more than 60,000 soldiers a new order: planting trees to create new forests.
According to Asia Times, a regiment of the People’s Liberation Army and China’s armed police force have been removed from their posts in northern border areas. The task is part of efforts to tackle high levels of air pollution.
The project is a big one. China plans to grow 6.66 million hectares of new forest this year, having already created 33.8 million hectares (338,000 square kilometres) of forest in the past five years, says Zhang Jianlong, head of the State Forestry Administration, in a report from Reuters. The country wants to increase the area of land covered by woodlands from 21.7% in 2016 to 23% by 2020, according to China Daily.
The majority of the reassigned soldiers will work in the heavily polluted Hebei Province, where three new state forests are planned. The province is often blamed for producing the fumes and smog that cover Beijing and northern China, and has committed to increasing its forest coverage to 35% by the end of 2020.
The re-assignment won’t come as a total surprise: several staff have been switched to non-military missions since plans to cut 300,000 troops were announced in 2015. According to Asia Times, the redeployed troops are not unhappy: planting trees inland gets them away from the tough living conditions on China’s northern borders.
China’s Natural Forest Protection
Cost 300 Billion Yuan in 20 Years
BEIJING (January 28, 2018) — China has spent more than 300 billion yuan ($47.3 billion) in 20 years in protecting natural forests, according to sources with State Forestry Administration.
As a key measure initiated by the State Council after severe floods hit the valleys of the Yangtze River and Songhua River in 1998, natural forest protection project was implemented in 16 provinces, including Heilongjiang, Jilin, Hebei, Yunnan, Hunan and Liaoning.
So far, about 129.6 million hectares of natural forest has been well protected, according to an official in charge of natural forest protection.
Logging of natural forest has been completely banned in these regions.
State-owned forestry bureaus in key protection areas received subsidy of 15 million yuan each annually to sustain their daily operation.
Boasting the fifth largest forest area in the world, China aims to expand its forest cover to more than 23 percent by 2020 to combat climate change and soil erosion. The forest coverage was 21.7 percent at the end of 2016.
An increase of 1.4 percentage points means the forest volume rising by more than 1.3 billion cubic meters, supporting China’s climate change obligation to add around 4.5 billion cubic meters of forest by 2030.
China Is Re-assigning 60,000 Troops — to Plant Trees
As the People’s Liberation Army looks to downsize,
significant numbers of soldiers
are being tasked with non-military missions
Asia Times Staff
(February 7, 2018) — China will plant new forests covering an area of 84,000 square kilometers, roughly the size of Ireland, in 2018, as it aims to increase forest coverage to 23% of total landmass by the end of the decade, China Daily reported last week. The current forested area stands at 21%.
Meanwhile, a separate source in the Central Military Commission said a large regiment of the People’s Liberation Army — in addition to the nation’s armed police force, which has just been absorbed into the commission — have been withdrawn from northern border areas and tasked with a new mission: planting trees.
The actual number of soldiers mobilized is said to be over 60,000.
The armed police force has a specially designated forestry branch to patrol and exercise jurisdiction in forested areas such as the northeastern Greater Khingan mountain range — dubbed ‘China’s green lungs’ — in Heilongjiang and Inner Mongolia provinces.
Zhang Jianlong, head of the State Forestry Administration, said at a meeting last week that China would aim to grow at least 6.66 million hectares of new forest this year.
China’s total forested area is now around 208 million hectares, with 33.8 million hectares having been added in the past five years.
Heavily polluted Hebei province, which encircles Beijing, has pledged to raise its total forest coverage to 35% by the end of 2020, and the bulk of the troops pulled back from the frontlines will be dispatched there for afforestation in a province that is seen as the major culprit in producing the fumes and smog that blanket not only Beijing but also large parts of northern China in cold seasons.
In 2015, Beijing announced a plan to lay off 300,000 soldiers and many PLA personnel have been re-assigned to non-military missions such as planting trees and revving up key state-level infrastructure projects.
Posts on online forums popular among veterans and military aficionados reveal that soldiers covet being re-stationed inland, away from the frigid northern border areas, in order to plant trees, so long as their ranks and entitlements remain unchanged.
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