BEIJING, Oct. 7 (Xinhua) -- The Chinese government allocated 46.2 billion yuan (7.22 billion U.S. dollars) from its central budget to the return-farmland-to-forests plan during 2008-2011, according to the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC).
As of the end of 2006, around 9.3 million hectares of farmland had been converted to forests since the government launched a national campaign in 1999. Around 15 million hectares of hillside was closed to facilitate afforestation during the period, according to the NDRC.
Under the plan, farmers received grain and cash subsidies if they returned their farmlands to woodlands to combat soil erosion.
By 2006, some 124 million farmers had been subsidized and the ecological environment had seen significant improvements, the NDRC said.
The emphasis on boosting forest coverage came amid the country's efforts to increase its "forest carbon sink capacity." This means using forested areas to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, thereby helping address global climate change.
China's forest coverage reached 20.36 percent in 2010, up from 18.2 percent in 2005, and is expected to further increase to 21.66 percent by 2015.