China suspends farmland-to-forest plan

To protect the country's food supply, the Chinese government has suspended a plan to convert farmland into forest. The move is to meet its pledge to keep at least 120 million hectares (ha) of arable land reserved by 2010. Currently, the country has 122.07 million ha of farmland.

The State Council has issued a statement in this connection and ordered to halt a ongoing afforestation projects. In 2005, under the 11th Five Year Plan, the government decided to plant trees on 1.3 million ha of farmland between 2006 and 2010. But the rapid speed of farmland losses, due to the afforestation projects and rapid urbanisation, has required the plan to be put on hold. The afforestation of about 267,000 ha of farmland that was to be done in 2006 will, however, continue, the State Council said. The government will also continue to provide subsidies to farmers who have converted their farmland into forest to mitigate their losses.

China's farmland re-afforestation plan was started in 1999. So far 24.3 million ha of fragile farmland on hillsides have been converted into forests.

Meanwhile, to prevent soil erosion, the government will build 160,000 embankments on the tributaries of the Yellow river over the next 17 years.

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