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Plans to curb sandstorms in Beijing, Tianjin

By He Dan  (China Daily)

08:23, September 20, 2012

The central government plans to strengthen efforts to control sandstorms and prevent environmental degradation in Beijing and Tianjin in the coming decade, according to a State Council statement on Wednesday.

Members at an executive meeting presided over by Premier Wen Jiabao discussed and passed the second-stage work plan for the Beijing-Tianjin Sandstorm Control Program (2013-22).

The statement said Shaanxi will be included in the program in 2013, as it is a source of sandstorms of the two metropolises.

Sandstorm-control work will also be expanded from 75 counties in five regions to 138 counties in six regions, including Beijing, Tianjin, Shanxi province and the Inner Mongolia autonomous region.

The statement also announced that June 14 will be known as National Low Carbon Day, as of 2013.

As an environmental measure, China converted about 9.27 million hectares of non-arable farmland into forests or grassland, between 1999 and 2006, the statement said.

Over the same period, trees have been planted in 15 million hectares of barren mountains and hills, it said, adding that evaluations show nearly 99 percent of planted trees and grass have survived.

The central government has focused on growing trees on barren mountains and stopped converting cultivated land to forests or grassland in 2007, said Wu Lijun, deputy director of the conversion of farmland to forests at the State Forestry Administration.

"Many authorities and farmers have seen the benefits of the project because they have not only witnessed an improved living environment, but also gained better livelihoods," he said, adding that the government provides subsidies to farmers for 16 years to help them to grow trees that have economic value.

For these reasons, nine provincial governments have urged the State Council to invest more to convert the non-arable lands to forests, he said.

There are about 4.3 million hectares of sloping land and some 4.7 million hectares desertified land nationwide, he said.
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