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Green boost for Beijing in blueprint
By Jiang Zhuqing (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-01-04 06:03

Residents in downtown Beijing will enjoy green belts every 500 metres under a new development plan for the city.

The ambitious blueprint will also see 11 satellite towns constructed surrounding the capital to house 5.7 million people in the next five years, said Chen Gang, director of Beijing Municipal Commission of Urban Planning, on Monday.

The average afforestation area or place of greenery for each dwelling in the new towns will reach at least 18 square metres, 3 square metres more than those living in the downtown regions, he added.

With the focus on the theme to construct a "Green Olympics," Beijing has vowed to build itself into an ecological-oriented city in the long run, said Song Xiyou, head of the Beijing Municipal Bureau of Forestry in a recent exclusive interview with China Daily.

"Visitors to Beijing will be impressed profoundly by the dense vegetation thanks to a green movement launched by the city in recent years," said Song.

By the end of 2005, the vegetation rate in the capital reached 50. 5 per cent, beating the 50 per cent target for the start of the Olympic Games by two years. At the same time, vegetation in the capital rose to 46 square metres per capita, from 35 square metres five years ago.

A total of three large-scale green belts have taken shape from the downtown area to the outskirts of the city, leading to an obvious improvement of the capital's ecological environment, said Song.

Meanwhile, the cost for afforestation in the capital might be the most expensive among all the Chinese cities, he noted.

At least 100 billion yuan (US$12 billion) has been spent over the past few years to help relocate about 600,000 residents and farmers who used to live in the areas between the third and the fifth ring roads.

"The government has to pay for all the expenses to dismantle the old inhabitations of the residents and to build skyscrapers for them as well as to plant trees and flowers," said the official.

"One of the results is to fulfil an afforestation area of 116 square kilometres, which forms the second green belt that surrounds the city."

The plantation of poplar and willow trees, which were the major tress species in the past, made the forestry system of the city vulnerable to attacks of diseases and pests, said the official.

To enhance the diversity of the tree species is necessary for the capital to enjoy a sustainable development in its forestry industry, he added.

After years of effort, much of the cultivated land in the suburbs and mountainous areas have been reforested, he noted.

Farmers living in the outskirts of the capital have also enjoyed the city's reshuffling of forestry industry.

The return to planting fruit trees, mainly pear trees, has surpassed 150,000 yuan (US$18,500) per hectare, compared with only 45,000-60,000 yuan (US$5,500-7,400) when we grew corns in the past, said Geng Huizhi, a farmer from Miyun County, a north suburb of Beijing.

Statistics from Song's bureau indicated that more than 1 million farmers have been engaged in the plantation of fruits, flowers and seedlings.

The plantation of fruit trees in mountainous areas not only improves the income of local farmers but also curbs the frequent soil erosions, experts said.

As to the future afforestation efforts, Song said the emphasis of the overall programme is to be shifted from large-scale planting to raise and protect the trees which have already been planted.

(China Daily 01/04/2006 page3)

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