A breath of fresh air

ChinAfrica - - China Report -

As the larch trees grew, they shed their nee­dle-shaped leaves, which de­com­posed over the course of time, pro­vid­ing nu­tri­ents to nour­ish other veg­e­ta­tion such as shrubs and flow­ers. As the for­est grew denser with more va­ri­eties of veg­e­ta­tion, it at­tracted wild an­i­mals such as boars, badgers, deer and birds, who set­tled there, fill­ing the woods with vi­tal­ity and restor­ing the eco­log­i­cal sys­tem.

Now, Sai­hanba has 261 in­ver­te­brate species, 660 in­sect species, 179 fun­gus species and 625 plant species, ac­cord­ing to a Xin­hua News Agency re­port.

“Left to na­ture, it would have taken at least 100 years to re­store the bar­ren sandy land, while Sai­hanba re­gained its for­est ecosys­tem in only 50-plus years, mak­ing an im­por­tant con­tri­bu­tion to China’s eco­log­i­cal progress,” said Huang Xuan­rui, Dean of the Col­lege of Forestry, Agri­cul­tural Univer­sity of He­bei.

The de­ser­ti­fi­ca­tion and san­di­fi­ca­tion mon­i­tor­ing re­port re­leased by the prov­ince in 2009 showed that in the pre­vi­ous five years, the san­di­fied land near Bei­jing and Tian­jin had shrank by 74,700 hectares.

In re­cent years, the an­nual av­er­age sand­storm days in Bei­jing have been re­duced to about 7.5 days and the an­nual av­er­age pre­cip­i­ta­tion in­creased by 66.3 mm, ac­cord­ing to China Metero­log­i­cal Ad­min­is­tra­tion. The num­ber of strongly windy days has been re­duced by 30 days.

As the farm went into op­er­a­tion with large-scale tree plant­ing mostly com­pleted in the 1980s, the ques­tion was how to make it sus­tain­able and prof­itable.

With log­ging be­ing the tra­di­tional busi­ness model for state-owned for­est farms, a hard fiber­board plant was set up in Sai­hanba in 1981 to process the in­fe­ri­orqual­ity trees re­jected for farm use. This be­came a ma­jor rev­enue source.

But to­day, a more prof­itable busi­ness is sell­ing saplings of spruce, larch and Mon­go­lian scotch pine. A 15-year-old spruce tree, that is usu­ally around 7 me­ters tall, can fetch the same amount of money as tim­ber from 30 trees of the same age, ac­cord­ing to Wang Lim­ing, in charge of the farm’s plant nursery.

The farm has be­come an im­por­tant sapling nursery in north China. In 2016, sapling sales gen­er­ated an in­come of more than 11.95 mil­lion yuan ($1.82 mil­lion). By re­duc­ing log­ging and ex­pand­ing the sapling nursery, the farm has also in­creased the for­est vol­ume and area.

A side busi­ness of the farm is eco­tourism. Ac­cord­ing to the county’s Cul­ture and Tourism Bureau, there are over 500,000 vis­its to Sai­hanba an­nu­ally, yield­ing more than 40 mil­lion yuan ($6 mil­lion) in en­trance ticket in­come and cre­at­ing 15,000 di­rect jobs. Lo­cal res­i­dents ben­e­fit from this by pro­vid­ing lodg­ing, cater­ing and trans­porta­tion ser­vices and sell­ing ar­ti­facts and other spe­cialty prod­ucts. Ev­ery year, tourism adds more than 600 mil­lion yuan ($90 mil­lion) to the lo­cal econ­omy.

Sai­hanba has also launched a car­bon se­ques­tra­tion project. Liu Haiy­ing, head of the for­est farm, said that the farm’s to­tal vol­ume of se­questered car­bon is equiv­a­lent to 4.75 mil­lion tons of car­bon diox­ide. So far, 183,000 tons of se­questered car­bon had been listed for sale. If all the se­questered car­bon is sold, it will gen­er­ate at least $15.19 mil­lion in rev­enue.

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