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Monday, July 31, 2000, updated at 21:13(GMT+8)

Premier Emphasizes Afforestation in China's Western Regions

Premier Emphasizes Afforestation in China's Western Regions
Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji called local officials to pay attention to the work of turning crops fields back to forests and grasslands in west China.

He also stressed the importance of carrying out experimental projects in an active, steady, healthy manner.

He made these remarks at a national workshop on experiments of turning crops fields back to forests and grasslands in central and western parts of China. The workshop was held by a leading panel of experts on the development of China's western regions this week.

Zhu, also member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China ( CPC), emphasized that turning cultivated land back to forests and grasslands is a very complicated task and will require a lot of hard work.

He urged local officials to keep cool-headed about the task before them and fully recognize the importance and urgency of the work involved.

Officials from relevant central government and local government departments briefed the meeting about the progress of experimental projects and discussed policies and measures of ways to spearhead the work.

All relevant parties should carefully carry out the policies and measures that the central government adopts in turning crops fields back to forests and grasslands.

The meeting called for relevant parties to resume their due responsibilities and cooperate closely. It set forward several key tasks.

First, local governments should fully motivate the grass root levels by perfecting relevant policies and measures, especially the policy of giving grain, cash and saplings as compensation to every rural household that reduces crops fields.

Second, localities should prepare adequate saplings of trees and grass to meet the demand of reforestation. Authorities should improve construction of sapling bases and encourage collectives and individuals to nurture saplings.

Third, localities should develop and provide scientific and technological support for reforestation. They should spread use of new techniques and breeds to increase experimental projects. Meanwhile, they should strengthen technical training of rural households.

Localities should carefully draft plans and procedures and put forward detailed measures of turning crops fields back to forests and grass lands by thoroughly studying the historical and environmental conditions of different specific localities.

Localities are also urged to improve supervision in order to guarantee the quality of the experimental projects.

Zhu emphasized that turning crops fields back to forests and grass lands is of great significance in protecting the environment in western China. He said that people should brace themselves for long and arduous job ahead of them which will take several generations to accomplish.

He said the work requires a systematic plan and need to be done gradually with initial emphasis on the experimental projects.

He emphasized that localities should pay attention to the realizing the final hard fruits of their work and avoid making any rash short-term decisions. He called the people to draw lessons from the unsuccessful attempts that some localities made in turning crops fields back to forests and grass lands several years ago.

Zhu said people should focus on efficiency rather than speed and guarantee quality of their work and called for localities to set work targets according to their specific managing capabilities and practical conditions and avoid expanding the area and scope of experimental projects blindly.

He said the localities must secure success of the experimental projects so that they can later turn larger areas of crops fields back to forests and grass lands.

He emphasized that localities should fully respect the will of local farmers in doing their work. They are not allowed to force farmers to act against their will and ask them to meet uniform requirements without considering their specific situations.

Zhu requested localities to consult with farmers and experts and carry out feasibility studies before deciding whether certain areas of crops fields will be reforested and what varieties of trees or grass will be planted.

Zhu said reforestation efforts should focus more on improving the environment.

He urged localities to provide compensations for farmers to maintain their sense of security. At the same time, localities should give full consideration to the livelihood of the farmers who turn their crops fields back to forests and grass lands.

He asked localities to combine reforestation efforts with securing long-term livelihood of the farmers, restructure the agricultural sector and carry out the central government's policies of compensations and farmer household contracts.

Only in this way can crop fields be actually turned back to forests and grass lands and remain afforested without being cultivated again, said Zhu.

Zhu said that the experimental projects should introduce new methods according to requirements of developing a socialist market economy. For example, local governments should pay sapling subsidies directly to farmers in cash and let them buy saplings on the market. This will enable farmers to choose saplings suitable for their own fields and increase the survival rate of trees and vegetation.

Zhu said localities should change their practice of distributing saplings by government order and encourage farmers to nurture saplings. The sapling industry should become a new source of income for local farmers and an impetus to restructuring local agriculture.

Zhu asked localities to focus on agriculture and grain products despite the current surplus supply of grain. Noting that the drought has reduced summer crops this year and affected the income of farmers, Zhu said the local governments should take concrete measures to increase farmers income and secure grain production. These factors are crucial to the success of long-term reforestation.

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Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji called local officials to pay attention to the work of turning crops fields back to forests and grasslands in west China.

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