Foresta­tion ef­forts seen as ex­am­ples for oth­ers

Mid­dle East, Africa can learn from Sai­hanba and Kubuqi

China Daily (USA) - - TOP NEWS - By ZHENG JINRAN zhengjin­ran@ chi­nadaily.com.cn

China has found work­able so­lu­tions to de­ser­ti­fi­ca­tion, as shown by suc­cess­ful pro­jects like Sai­hanba Na­tional For­est Park, which is im­por­tant for China and the rest of the world, ac­cord­ing to the UN’s top en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion ex­pert.

Since 1962, when work­ers started plant­ing trees, the for­est cov­er­age in Sai­hanba Na­tional For­est Park, 150 kilo­me­ters from Bei­jing in He­bei prov­ince, has soared from 12 per­cent to 80 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to Na­tional De­vel­op­ment and Re­form Com­mis­sion data from 2016.

Sai­hanba, the largest man­made for­est in the world, forms a nat­u­ral bar­rier against sand­storms that pro­tects the health of mil­lions in the cap­i­tal and nearby re­gions.

“The trans­for­ma­tion of Sai­hanba is the re­sult of more than 55 years of hard work by sev­eral gen­er­a­tions of ex­perts . ... That is a tri­umph of pa­tience and de­ter­mi­na­tion,” Erik Sol­heim, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the United Na­tions En­vi­ron­ment Pro­gramme, said in an in­ter­view.

He has per­son­ally wit­nessed the suc­cess­ful out­come of ef­forts sim­i­lar to Sai­hanba’s re­cently in the Kubuqi Desert of the In­ner Mon­go­lia au­ton­o­mous re­gion.

The to­tal area of green­ery in the desert, the sev­enth-largest in China, has ex­panded by more than 6,000 square kilo­me­ters in the past three decades, ac­cord­ing to data from the re­gional gov­ern­ment.

“It’s a case of get­ting the sci­ence right, and be­ing able to think big and take that vi­sion for­ward with de­ter­mined lead­er­ship,” Sol­heim said, ex­plain­ing that the pa­tience to think long-term also is nec­es­sary, which has been proved in the 55-year ef­fort at the Sai­hanba For­est Farm.

“De­ser­ti­fi­ca­tion is not just a ma­jor prob­lem for China. Na­tions like Iran and Iraq face sim­i­lar prob­lems, as do coun­tries in the Sa­hel re­gion of Africa, and even parts of the United States. In ar­eas of the Mid­dle East, de­ser­ti­fi­ca­tion is also a huge pub­lic health is­sue. We know that this kind of en­vi­ron­men­tal degra­da­tion also drives in­sta­bil­ity and con­flict.”

In ad­di­tion to the ef­forts in Sai­hanba and the Kubuqi Desert, China has taken com­pre­hen­sive mea­sures to re­duce de­ser­ti­fi­ca­tion over decades, shrink­ing its to­tal desert area at a rate of 2,400 sq km a year, Vice-Premier Ma Kai said at a July fo­rum.

Sol­heim said in pro­mot­ing the green­ing process, govern­ments need to set up clear goals and a nec­es­sary frame­work, so pri­vate sec­tor com­pa­nies, NGOs and lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties can nur­ture the in­no­va­tive tech­nolo­gies and busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties.

“In the suc­cess­ful sto­ries of Sai­hanba and the Kubuqi Desert, they are re­ally just well-rounded busi­ness plans, and they show long-term eco­nomic ben­e­fits can out­weigh the costs of the huge amount of work re­quired,” he said.

Sai­hanba For­est Farm has de­vel­oped in a sus­tain­able way, with eco­nomic growth re­ly­ing on tourism, tree seed­ing, wind power gen­er­a­tion and log­ging — with the green sec­tors bring­ing in 100 mil­lion yuan ($15.1 mil­lion) last year, out­weigh­ing the rev­enue from past log­ging op­er­a­tions, data from the Na­tional De­vel­op­ment and Re­form Com­mis­sion show.

“The suc­cess of pro­jects like Sai­hanba and Kubuqi can form a com­po­nent of China’s drive to build an eco­log­i­cal civ­i­liza­tion and to take that mes­sage around the world, for ex­am­ple as part of the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive,” he said.

It’s a case of get­ting the sci­ence right, and be­ing able to think big.” Erik Sol­heim, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the UN En­vi­ron­ment Pro­gramme

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