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New chiefs to supervise forests, grassland

Xu Wei
Updated: Jan 20,2021 09:02 AM    China Daily

China's decision to enable the nationwide implementation of a forest chief mechanism will bolster the long-term protection of forest and grassland resources and ensure that the nation's boundaries of environmental security will not be transgressed, officials and experts have said.

A guideline published by the general offices of the Communist Party of China Central Committee and the State Council on Jan 12 outlined policy measures to promote the mechanism, in which top Party or government officials at provincial, city, county or township levels will assume the role of forest chief in their areas of administration.

Forest chiefs at all levels will be charged with the protection and development of forest and grassland resources and must come up with targets in aspects such as forest coverage, forest stock volume and treatment of land desertification.

The guideline mapped out key tasks in six aspects, including steps to boost the protection of forest and grassland resources and ramp up ecological restoration.

Guan Zhi'ou, head of the National Forestry and Grassland Administration, said the across-the-board implementation of the forest chief mechanism will help coordinate the protection of forests and grassland from a long-term perspective.

"Through the establishment of the mechanism, the government can further clarify regional spaces and the roles of individuals undertaking the principal responsibilities, and promote solutions to issues regarding regional and cross-regional ecological restoration," he said.

He added that new measures will be a crucial step in the enhancement of local responsibilities in ecological protection as they will further cement the foundation of primary-level governance in this regard.

The policy document stressed the need to prohibit the reclamation of farmland in ways that destroy forests and grassland, as well as the need to carry out the ban on commercial logging across the board.

The country will move forward with its large-scale afforestation initiative and boost efforts to prevent and control biohazards, including pests, that could affect forest and grassland resources, the document said.

Data from the National Forestry and Grassland Administration showed that China led the world in its total area of afforestation, which reached 78.6 million hectares as of 2019. Meanwhile, the country has also set a goal to increase its percentage of forest cover from 22.96 percent in 2020 to 26 percent by 2035.

China started implementing the forest chief position on a trial basis in 2017. So far, 23 provincial regions, including Anhui and Jiangxi provinces, have already carried out the trial program, providing the foundation for nationwide implementation.

Experts have pointed out the significance of the forest chief initiative in contributing to China's commitment to hit peak carbon emissions before 2030 and attain carbon neutrality before 2060.

"There is no doubt that the full implementation of the forest chief system at various levels will certainly enhance the ecological protection and restoration efforts of China, and will reduce carbon emissions in the environment," said Arshad Ali, a professor of forest ecology and management at Nanjing Forestry University in Jiangsu province.

"The new policies will greatly support the forest and grassland scientists in their research of forest and global climate change issues," he said.

The full implementation of the mechanism will "greatly strengthen the relationship between forest and government leadership, and hence, it will certainly lead to the improved working mechanism, which will, in turn, strengthen the monitoring procedure of government and forest leadership as well as local societies", he explained.

Cheng Xiaoqin, an associate professor of forest ecology with Beijing Forestry University, said the forest chief system is an effective measure to pursue the concept that "green mountains and lucid waters are invaluable assets", part of the thought on ecological civilization long emphasized by President Xi Jinping.

She explained that the new policy will enable governments and officials at various levels to put more emphasis on the protection of forest resources.

"The across-the-board implementation of the forest chief system will help further increase forest stock volume and cover and thus lay an institutional foundation for the nation's sustainable development and transitioning to a healthier, more ecologically friendly growth model," she said.

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