25 February 2014
(Reuters) - China is on track to meet its 2020 target for expanding the nation's forests to cover 23 percent of its landmass to combat climate change and soil erosion, the State Forestry Administration (SFA) said on Tuesday.
But some observers are critical of the massive reforestation, saying China is focusing on plantation forestry and ignoring the restoration of natural forests, which are still being lost.
Since 2008, China has planted 13 million hectares (130,000 square kms) of new forests, roughly the size of Montenegro, taking total forest coverage to 208 million hectares (two million sq kms) or just over 21 percent of its landmass.
"We have completed 60 percent of our task to meet the target for forest coverage and aim at 23 percent (of the landmass) by 2020," Zhao Shucong, the director of the SFA, told reporters in Beijing.
China launched its reforestation programme in 1998, after devastating flooding of the Yangtze river was blamed on the loss of trees, which previously had acted as flood barriers.
Large-scale deforestation in northern China has contributed to loss of topsoil, causing huge storms that sometimes carry sand and dust as far as eastern Canada.