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China Aims To Plant the Size of Ireland in New Forests

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China is growing so fast that it's likely to overtake the US as the world's biggest superpower in the next few years. Yet it looks like the Asian powerhouse is still taking its green space seriously, reported LADbible (US).

In an attempt to improve its environment, China aims to plant new forests this year covering roughly the size of Ireland, it has been revealed.

China Daily reported this past Friday that the country hopes to grow 6.66 million hectares of new forest this year in its plan to increase its forest coverage to 23% of its total landmass by 2020. That's a lot of forest.

The plans were announced by Zhang Jianlong, the head of China's State Forestry Administration at a meeting this past Thursday. Can't fault their ambition, can you?

"Companies, organisations and talent that specialise in greening work are all welcome to join in the country's massive greening campaign," Jianlong said.

"Cooperation between government and social capital will be put on the priority list."

China has invested an enormous amount in forestry over the last five years, with over 33.8 million hectares of forest being planted across China in that period to the tune of over 538 billion yuan (£61bn), Jianlong added.

If this figure is true, this brings China's total forest area to 208 million hectares (2.08 million square km.) - an area larger than the entire country of Mexico. Impressive.

Jianlong also confirmed that three new forests will be planted in the Hebei province, the heavily polluted province which surrounds China's capital city Beijing. This will increase forest coverage in Hebei to 35% by 2020.

According to figures from Global Forest Watch, forests made up 17% of China's land mass in the year 2000. However, over 8 million hectares of tree cover was lost between 2001 and 2016.

The tree monitoring organisation said that 2016 saw the biggest loss of tree cover in the country since 2008, with almost 720,000 hectares disappearing that year.

In a report on deforestation in China published in 2016, Michigan State University blamed decades of logging, floods and conversion to farmland for the rapid loss of trees.

However, the university also highlighted how much progress China's forest conservation and restoration programmes have made since the beginning of the 21st century.

Since the year 2000, China has implemented its Natural Forest Conservation Program (NFCP), which bans logging, and in some forested areas compensates residents for activities designed to prevent illegal timber harvesting.

Co-author of the study, Jianguo Liu, said: "It is encouraging that China's forest has been recovering in the midst of its daunting environmental challenges such as severe air pollution and water shortages."

"In today's telecoupled world, China is increasingly connected with other countries both socioeconomically and environmentally. Every victory must be measured holistically, or we aren't getting a true picture."

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