The achievement of Chinese foresters in Saihanba was not made within a day.
Less than 200 kilometers north of Beijing, Saihanba boasts the world’s largest artificial forest.
But half a century ago, the over 90-thousand-hectare region south of the Hunshandake Desert almost became a wasteland due to rampant felling of trees.
The aftermath was clear: it became a channel for wind to blow sand into Beijing and adjacent regions.
“Sandstorms used to be frequent both in spring and autumn, carrying here yellow sands in autumn and white snow in spring. In the worst windy season, we had to keep lamps on in the daytime, or we could hardly see anything.”
To change the situation, China established a state forest farm in the region back in 1962.
But it’s not easy work at a place where the minimum temperature in winter drops to below minus 40 Celsius while snow remains for an average of 7 months each year.
The survival rate for newly-planted trees in the first several years never exceeded 8 percent.
However, Cheng Shun, from the local forest research institute, said the lack of planting technology was indeed a bigger trouble.
“In early days, tree seedlings were transported from other places. We couldn’t breed them at that time. There were many difficulties in the transport process. Any of them might kill the small plants.”
Through unswerving efforts, three generations of foresters from Saihanba have managed to increase the forest cover from about 11 percent to 80 percent.
Guo Zhifeng with the forest farm says another achievement is the diversified portfolio of plants.
“Larches once made up an overwhelming majority of trees here, but now its percentage has been reduced to less than 50 percent. The diversified plant mix creates a much better ecology.”
The reclaimed landscape currently supplies nearly 140 million cubic meters of clean water to Beijing.
At the same time, the restored forest has stimulated growth of green sectors of the economy that generated around 15 million U.S. dollars last year.
Over the years, China has created nearly 70 million hectares of artificial forest.
It has planned to further raise its forest coverage rate to over 23 percent by 2020.