China’s Saihanba afforestation community bags UN’s top environmental award

December 6, 2017
Global Times

China's Saihanba afforestation community on Tuesday scooped a prestigious UN environmental award for its outstanding contribution to restoration of degraded landscapes, amid the national efforts to advance ecological civilization.

The announcement about Saihanba afforestation community emerging among top winners of the annual UN Champions of the Earth Award was made in Nairobi during the ongoing third edition of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA3).

Erik Solheim, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), hailed Saihanba community for pioneering innovative but cost effective grassroots led initiatives to reclaim degraded landscapes.

"The Saihanba afforestation community has transformed degraded land into lush green paradise-- part of a new Great Wall of vegetation that will play a part in helping protect millions from air pollution and preserving precious water supplies," Solheim remarked.

He added that the Chinese conservation group has inspired the global community to start a new conversation on effective measures to adopt in order to restore the health of vital ecosystems.

"The work is proof that environmental degradation can be reversed, and that this is an investment worth making," Solheim remarked, adding that grassroots initiatives have often proved to have profound impact on environmental conservation globally.

The Saihanba region that covers about 93,000 hectares in north China's Hebei Province almost became a waste land in the 1950s due to rampant felling of trees which made it possible for wind to blow sand into Beijing and adjacent regions.

Hundreds of foresters in 1962 embarked on tree planting in Saihanba given the heavy price they were paying due to rapid desertification.

Three generation of foresters from Saihanba have managed to increase the forest cover from 11.4 percent to 80 percent while the reclaimed landscape currently supplies some 137 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 generate an estimated 15.1 million US dollars in 2016.

Liu Haiying, head of Saihanba Forest Farm said that restoring degraded forests has capacity to unleash huge ecological, social and monetary benefits.

"I believe that as long as we continue to promote ecological civilization, generation after generation, China can create more green miracles like Saihanba and achieve harmony between humans and nature," said Liu.

China bagged three of the six prizes presented to pioneers in environmental conservation during this year's edition of Champions of the Earth Award.

In addition to Saihanba, which won in the category of "Inspiration and Action," Chinese bike-sharing company Mobike, which has revolutionized urban mobility, and Wang Wenbiao, Chairman of Elion Resources Group that is credited with transforming deserts into pristine oasis, also reaped the coveted environmental award.

They were awarded in the categories of "Entrepreneurial Vision" and "Lifetime Achievement Award" respectively.

Other famous names who received UN's top environmental honor includes the President of Chile Michelle Bachelet.

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