By the end of 2015 the Beijing metro area’s total green coverage rate had reached 59%, the forest coverage rate reached 41.6%, and the urban green coverage rate reached 48%. If you had the chance to gaze over the city, you would find that Beijing's mountains, rivers, and forests, together, look like a huge unfurled green umbrella.
The greenery is the result of over 60 years of regeneration efforts. The Municipal Gardens Bureau indicated that Beijing has experienced four stages of afforestation since the foundation of the People's Republic of China in 1949:
- The first stage started in 1950s and lasted till late 70s. Beijing encouraged residents to plant trees on barren mountains. During the formation of the P.R. China, Beijing had about 320,000 acres of defective forest, with barren ridges and frequent torrent disasters. To improve Beijing's ecosystem, the city launched a large-scale afforestation movement. "Over 1,000 people carried saplings and tools, and climbed up the mountain. There was a long queue of trucks on the foothill," recalled Fan Zhang, who witnessed the scene.
- During the second stage, from 1980s to the 90s, the effort of afforestation changed from mobilizing people to engineering solutions that focused on controlling sandstorms. Since the 1980s, Beijing has launched several national afforestation projects, such as the Three-North Shelterbelt and Taihang Mountain Greening Project. As a result, five sandstorm affected areas have become woodland barriers to stop windstorms coming to Beijing.
- From 2000 to 2010, during the third stage of the afforestation movement, Beijing initiated two greenbelt projects between the fourth and sixth ring areas. Ten years later, the greenbelts have become an urban forest of 2.4 acres, with over 80 leisure parks. By 2010, the city's total forest coverage reached over 15 million acres, 80% of which is in mountainous areas.
- Starting in 2011, afforestation in Beijing entered its fourth stage. The focus of this stage is on greening the plains areas and on strengthening the weakest parts of the ecosystem. Today, woodland coverage in the plains areas has reached 25%, increased 10 percentage points compared to 2011.
But the restoration of Beijing's natural environment and ecosystems faces severe challenges. Two-hundred thousand acres of mountainous area within the region are still not covered with trees. These 200,000 barren mountains have low quality soil and bare rock, which is considered the most difficult task in afforestation engineering. Additionally, green spaces are still lacking in the city, despite the greening efforts and projects carried out annually.
Although woodlands are now covering over 1 million acres of the area’s plains, Beijing still has a long way to go compared to the over 40% forest coverage of other international metropolis such as London, Moscow, and Paris. Naiping Deng, director of the Municipal Gardens Bureau, stated that Beijing has planned to green all barren mountains, increase the plains forested area by at least 380,000 acres, and make room for green spaces by tearing down informal buildings. In five years, 85% of residents should live within 500 meters of a park or a green plot. In the future, Beijing will have a screen of green mountains, a forest ring and green landscapes everywhere. The city will become more beautiful and livable.
How is the natural environment in and around your city? Does your city face natural disasters such as sandstorms or hurricanes? What methods have been used to restore the ecosystem’s balance and how effective are they? Share your thoughts and your city's stories in the comments area below.
Credits: Images and data linked to sources.
The original article, published in Chinese, can be found here.