Forest: The forest area in the country reached 158.94 million hectares. The volume of standing timber reserve reached 12.49 billion m3. The conserved area of artificial forests reached 46.667 million hectares, which was the most among all countries in the world. In the previous 20 years, 8.22 billion people/times in the country participated in voluntary tree planting, and planted 39.84 billion trees. China's forest area ranked the 5th in the world, and the volume of forest reserve ranked the 7th in the world. But China's forest coverage rate was only 16.55%, which was only 61% of the world's average forest coverage rate (27%). China's per capita forest area was 0.128 hectare, which was one fifth of the world's average (0.6 hectare). China's per capita forest reserve was 9.048 m3, which was only one eighth of the world's average (72 m3). China was a country that lacked forest resources.
China's per capita annual timber consumption was 0.29 m3, which was one half of the world's average (0.58 m3), and one third of the average of developed countries. But the conflict between the supply of and demand for timber was still intense. The rational annual timber supply capacity of China's existing forest resources was 220 million m3, which was only 40% of the demand for timber.
Grassland: China's grassland was nearly 400 million hectares, which was 41.7% of China's total land territory and ranked the 2nd in the world. But the per capita grassland area was only 0.33 hectare, which was only half of the world's average. China's natural grassland was mostly distributed in the arid and semi-arid regions where the annual precipitation was less than 400 mm, and in the grass mountain regions in the western part of the northeast and in the south. 193.159 million hectares (49.2%) of the grassland were in the grazing regions; 58.526 million hectares (14.9%) were in the semi-agricultural and semi-grazing regions; 121.148 million hectares (30.8%) were in the agricultural and forest regions; and 20 million hectares (5.1%) were close to lakes, rivers, and seas.
Plant Diseases, Pests, and Rats: In 2003, the total area of forest affected by plant diseases, pests and rats was 8.785 million hectares. The area of forest where they were prevented or controlled was 5.742 million hectares, which was 65.36% of the total affected area. Compared with the previous year, the affected area had increased by 549,000 hectares, and the area for prevention and control had increased by 177,000 hectares. The main damage was caused by pine moth. In 2003, pine moth affected 1.398 million hectares, which was 103,000 hectares less than the previous year. In 2003, the red turpentine beetles affected 216,000 hectares, which was 138,000 hectares less than the previous year.
In 2003, the total area of grassland affected by rats was 39 million hectares, among which 20 million hectares were seriously damaged. In spring alone, rats affected 18 million hectares of grassland, 9 million hectares of which were seriously damaged. The area of grassland that was called "Rat Waste Land" or "Black Earth Sands" (due to the serious damage done by rats) was 8 million hectares, which was 3.6% of all usable grassland in the north. The area of grassland where rats were prevented or controlled was 6.667 million hectares, which was 17.5% of the total affected area; and RMB 620 million of economic loss was prevented or recovered.
In 2003, grassland pests affected almost 26.667 million hectares, among which 1,800 hectares were affected by grassland locusts. The Asian migratory locusts migrated from Kazakhstan to Xinjiang again. The migratory locusts in the Ali Region of Tibet caused serious damage to grassland and agricultural land. The locust from the Inner Mongolia grassland flied in large flocks and caused damage to 8 towns in Hohhot and Erlianhot, etc, and reached as far as Yanqing of Beijing. In 2003, the total area where grassland pests were prevented or controlled was 4.83 million hectares, and RMB 440 million of economic losses was prevented or recovered.
Fire Disasters: In 2003, there were 10,463 forest fires, which were 39% more than the previous year. Among them, there were 5,582 forest fire warnings, which were 25.4% more than the previous year; there were 4,860 general forest fires, which were 59.6% more than the previous year; there were 14 major forest fires, which were 41.7% fewer than the previous year; and there were 7 cases of heavy fires, which were the same amount as in the previous year. The total area affected was 451,000 hectares, which was 846.9% more than the previous year. 39 people died in fire fighting, which were 77% more than in the previous year. In 2003, the government spent RMB 580 million on forest fires, which was 167% more than the previous year.
In 2003, there were 387 grassland fires. Among them, 318 were fire warnings, 60 were ordinary fires, 6 were major fires, and 3 were heavy fires. The affected grassland area was 89,700 hectares. 2 people were wounded in fire fighting, and 129 animals were burned dead. The fires affected Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang, Heilongjiang, Qinghai, Sichuan, Gansu, Hebei, Jilin, Liaoning, Ningxia, Shannxi, Shanxi, and Xingjiang Production & Construction Army Corps.
Grassland Degradation: 90% of China's natural grassland had been degraded to varying extent. The area of seriously degraded grassland was close to 180 million hectares. The area of degraded grassland in China had been increasing at a rate of 2 million hectares per year. The area of natural grassland area had been reduced at a rate of 650,000 to 700,000 hectares per year. The quality of grassland had been declining. Since the 1980s, the grass productivity of the main grassland regions in the north had declined by 17.6% on the average. The greatest decline was about 40%, which had been observed in desert grassland. The decline rate of typical grassland was about 20%. The production of grassland of Inner Mongolia, Ningxia, Xinjiang, and Gansu had declined by 27.6%, 25.3%, 24.4%, 24.6%, and 20.2% respectively in terms of grass productivity.
Countermeasures and Actions:
The Six Key Forestry Programs: In 2003, China planted 9.119 million hectares of forest, which was 17.26% more than the previous year. Among this, the six key forestry programs planted 8.263 million hectares, which was 90.61% of the total planted forest area.
The Natural Forest Resource Protection Program: In 2003, the Natural Forest Resource Protection Program continued to reduce timber production, and construction of public welfare forest within the program area made significant progress. Since the pilot phase of the program started in 1998, 1.71 million hectares of forest had been planted by human labor, 1.977 million hectares of forest had been planted by aerial sowing, and 8.433 million hectares of mountains had been closed for forest conservation. In 2003, 688,000 hectares of forest were planted, among which 182,000 hectares were planted by human labor, 506,000 hectares were planted by aerial sowing, and 61.4 hectares were mountain areas closed for forest conservation.
The Program of Concerting Farmland Back to Forest: 2003 was the first year since the Regulations on Converting Farmland to Forest was put into effect. From 1999 to 2003, a total of 12.194 hectares of land were converted to forest, including 5.86 million hectares of forest converted from farmland and 6.334 million hectares of forest converted from waste mountains and waste land.
The Program of Treating the Sand Sources of Beijing and Tianjin: The program had the heaviest tasks and made the largest investment in 2003 since the implementation of the program of treating the sand source of Beijing and Tianjin. By the end of 2003, Beijing, Tianjin, Hebei, Shanxi, and Inner Mongolia had treated 3.077 million hectares. Among them, 2.932 million hectares had been forested, and 145,000 hectares were small river basin areas that underwent comprehensive treatment. 2.276 million hectares were forests that had been planted as forestry construction tasks, and 656,000 hectares were grassland treated by the program. In 2003, the five provinces mentioned above finished treating 1.322 million hectares, including 1.112 million hectares as required by forestry construction tasks, 152,000 hectares as required by grassland treatment tasks, and 58,000 hectares as required by small river basin treatment tasks. In 2003, 824,000 hectares were newly forested, and 5,380 water conservancy projects were completed.
The Three North and the Yangtze River Basin Shelter Forest Construction Programs: In 2003, the programs forested 534,000 hectares, including 487,000 hectares by human labor and 47,000 hectares by aerial sowing. Among them, the Three North Program forested 275,000 hectares, the Yangtze River Basin Shelter Forest Construction Program forested 113,000 hectares, the Costal Shelter Forest Construction Program forested 34,000 hectares, the Pearl River Shelter Forest Program forested 45,000 hectares, the Taihang Mountain Greening Program forested 50,000 hectares, and the Plain Greening Program forested 16,000 hectares. In the covered areas of these programs, 325,000 hectares of mountains were closed for forest conservation, and 44,000 hectares of low-quality forests were upgraded. The total area of newly constructed agricultural shelter forest was equivalent to 59,000 hectares.
The Fast-Growing Timber Forest Base Construction Program in Key Regions: In 2003, the construction of fast-growing timber forest made significant progress. 59,000 hectares of forest were planted during the year. Among them, 21,000 hectares were planted on waste mountains and waste land, 25,000 hectares were planted on slash, 13,000 hectares were planted on non-agricultural land, and 11,000 hectares were upgraded forest. Most of these fast-growing timber forests were planted as the raw materials of the artificial board industry or of pulp and paper making, or for timber production. Among them, 43.6% were planted as the raw materials of the artificial board industry. In terms of tree types, poplar and paulownia were the main tree types in the north; whereas in the south 32.38% of all trees planted were eucalyptus and 27.46% were rich acacia.
Key Grassland Protection Programs: In 2003, focused attention was given to the implementation of key programs such as the Land Conversion Program (converting grazing areas to grassland) on Natural Grassland, and the Natural Grassland Vegetation Restoration and Construction Program in western grazing regions. The Central Government invested RMB 1.75 billion of state bond in the western regions, among which RMB 300 million were used for natural grassland vegetation restoration and construction, RMB 200 million were used for the construction of grass seeds production base, and RMB 1.25 billion were used for the land conversion program. These programs constructed artificial forage bases covering 997,500 mu, upgraded grassland fences for 2.1552 million mu, constructed 186,350 m2 of covered pens, treated 252,000 mu of land for rats and pests, constructed 219,600 mu of seeds propagation land, and built grazing-prohibiting fences for 100 million mu of grassland. The grassland vegetation coverage of the program areas were generally 10-15% higher than before these programs were implemented. The grass productivity was generally raised by about 100 kg per mu, which contributed significantly to the reduction of soil erosion. According to measurement in the programs areas in Sichuan, soil erosion was reduced by 190 kg per mu grassland.
The Building of "Garden Cities": By the end of 2003, 43 cities or districts had been named national "Garden Cities (Districts)".
China Human Settlement and Environment Award: By 2003, Shenzhen, Dalian, Hangzhou, Nanning, Shihezi, Qingdao, Xiamen, and Sanya had been awarded the "China Human Settlement and Environment Award" by the Ministry of Construction, and 89 cities or projects had been awarded the "China Human Settlement and Environment Example Award". The competition for these awards had promoted efforts by the governments of cities to improve the environment of human settlement.