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UPDATED: June 17, 2011
China Kicks off Grassland Protection Program

China's two autonomous regions of Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia started on Thursday to implement a subsidy and reward program for herdsmen, initiated by the Central Government to reverse and prevent damage of grasslands from climate change and overgrazing.

The northwestern Xinjiang will prohibit herdsmen from allowing their cattle to graze on 151 million mu (about 10 million hectares) of grasslands, accounting for about 17.6 percent of the region's total natural grasslands, according to the regional government.

Meanwhile, 538 million mu of natural grasslands in the region will allow a limited number of cattle to graze on.

Affected herdsmen will be compensated with an annual subsidy ranging from 5.5 yuan (about $0.85) to 50 yuan per mu of different kinds of grasslands where grazing is prohibited, and an annual subsidy of 1.5 yuan for per mu of grassland where grazing is limited.

In addition, herdsmen who sow grass will be given an annual subsidy of 10 yuan for per mu.

The program will also provide an annual subsidy of 500 yuan to every household in rural areas to help them purchase diesel oil and cattle feed.

Similar to Xinjiang, the northern Inner Mongolia region will annually compensate herdsmen with 6 yuan for per mu of its 404 million mu of prohibited grassland and 1.5 yuan for per mu of 616 million mu of grassland where grazing is limited.

The subsidy and reward program will cover eight Chinese provincial-level regions by the end of the year, which also include Tibet, Qinghai, Sichuan, Gansu, Ningxia and Yunnan.

The central government is expected to annually spend 13.4 billion yuan in five consecutive years on the program, said to be the country's largest of its kind in terms of funding and coverage.

China has about 6 billion mu of natural grasslands, the second-largest in the world in terms of area. Climate change, excessive grazing and rural development have caused damage to 90 percent of these grasslands.

(Xinhua News Agency June 16, 2011)

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