Earlier this year, the Chinese government announced plans for a major reforestation project—growing 6.66 million hectares of new forests this year, an area roughly the size of Ireland.
To achieve this goal, China has reassigned more than 60,000 soldiers to plant the trees. According to the Asia Times, a large regiment from the People’s Liberation Army, along with some of the nation’s armed police force, have been withdrawn from their posts near the northern border to work on the task.
The majority of the troops will be dispatched in the heavily polluted industrial province of Hebei, which has pledged to raise total forest coverage to 35 percent by the end of 2020.
China’s State Forestry Administration aims to increase the whole country’s forest coverage rate to 23 percent from 21.7 percent by the end of the decade. Then from 2020 to 2035, China plans to further boost the percentage of forest coverage to 26 percent.
China is the world’s largest emitter and remains heavily dependent on coal, but has been cleaning up its act in recent years due to concerns over the impacts of air pollution and climate change. The country is investing heavily in renewable energy, energy efficiency and electric cars.