How China's "green miracle" comes about

Added On March 14, 2019

About 400 kilometers north of Beijing lies a large swathe of trees.
The Saihanba forest, an environmental shield which reduces sandstorms.
But more than half a century ago, it was nothing more than a barren land.
"My father started to work here in 1962. He devoted his whole life to this forest and was buried in Saihanba after he died. And now my son works as a firefighter here. We want to protect and guard the forest trees that my father planted."
Three generations of forest workers from Saihanba have turned the wasteland into a vast, green forest.
SOUNDBITE (CHINESE) LI YONGDONG, Saihanba Forestry Section 
"The soil conditions were very poor. With only 3 to 5 centimeters of soil, it was all rock underneath. So we had to dig out all the rock and fill the holes with soil. Then we could plant."
After more than five decades of hard work, three generations of Saihanba workers have afforested almost 75,000 hectares of land with 480 million trees. Placed one meter apart, the trees in Saihanba forest could span the globe 12 times.
Over 30 years ago, a war against desertification was silently waged in Kekeya, a little-known place in northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.
Located at the northwestern edge of the Taklamakan Desert, the largest desert in China and the second-largest shifting sand desert in the world, Kekeya was once notorious for its erratic weather and constant sand storms.
To prevent the desert from expanding further and to reduce the impacts of sand and dust storms, an afforestation project was launched in 1986 and completed in 2015.
Today, a great "green wall," stretching around 77,000 hectares of land, protects towns in the region.
Imam Memet and his son Esqer Imam worked for three decades on the massive project.
SOUNDBITE 2 (Chinese): IMAM MEMET, Former head of Forestry Station in Kekeya
"The situation has gotten better and better over the years. The bare desert is turning green."
After retirement, Imam Memet passed the baton down to his son Esqer Imam who continued guarding the forest farm.
SOUNDBITE 3 (Chinese): ESQER IMAM, Imam Memet's son 
"After more than 10 years of hard effort, fruit trees are everywhere and the landscape is full of trees. The air is clean and fresh. People from rural Aksu all admire the place."
The Youyu county of north China's Shanxi province, connects Shanxi and the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, and on the edge of the Maowusu Desert, China's eighth largest desert.
Seventy years ago, the forest coverage rate was less than 0.3%, which can be described as a barren land ravaged by wind and sand.
That changed with Zhang Ronghuai, the county's first Party secretary, who insisted on planting trees despite repeated failures.
After numerous attempts, plants finally took root. Now 54 percent of Youyu's land is green, and foxes and roe deer wander the land.
"Decades ago, I couldn't find my sheep in the wind storm. Nowadays, with the trees planted, shepherds are relieved, sheep have grass to eat."
"Before 1949, the afforestation rate was 0.3%. It was a desert zone. From my childhood memory, Youyu people planted a certain kind of poplar called 'xiaolaoyang'. Starting from the 1990s, we started to plant pines. Tree planting has also brought economic benefit for Youyu people."
For generations, Chinese leaders have led the whole country to build a green motherland.
In 1956, Chairman Mao Zedong called for "greening the motherland."
The Chinese former leader Deng Xiaoping proposed the nationwide tree-planting campaign. The drive started in 1979, when China's National People's Congress officially declared March 12 the country's tree-planting day.
On April 5, 2016, President Xi Jinping visited an afforestation site in Beijing's Daxing District and planted six different kinds of trees.
When attending a panel discussion with his fellow deputies from Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region at the second session of the 13th National People's Congress on March 5, 2019, President Xi said that China should explore a new path of high-quality development that prioritizes ecology and highlights green development.
"Lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets." China's greening campaign has paid off.
China has made huge headway in reforestation over the past decades, contributing enormously to global efforts in fighting soil erosion, air pollution and climate change.
A new study using data from NASA satellites shows that China is leading the increase in greening on land.
The researchers found that global green leaf area has increased by 5 percent since the early 2000s, an area equivalent to all of the Amazon rainforests. At least 25 percent of that gain came in China.
It concludes that the "effect comes mostly from ambitious tree-planting programs in China and intensive agriculture in both China and India."  
Voice of Xi Jinping:
What we are doing today to build an ecological civilization will benefit generations to come. We should have a strong commitment to socialist ecological civilization and work to develop a new model of modernization with humans developing in harmony with nature. We must do our generation’s share to protect the environment.