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Chinese Logging Benefits Elusive

October 10, 1998

283, China (AP) _ If logging brought any lasting benefit to this corner of western China, none trickled down to Xiong Shouyi.

After three decades as a lumberjack, the crewcut 55-year-old is retired in a former logging camp known simply as ``283.″ Nestled in a mountain valley 10,200 feet high, the cluster of weather-beaten buildings is surrounded by spectacular scenery but has no electricity or telephone.

This is where Xiong and thousands of other timber workers cleared valleys and hillsides of trees _ a process that China is now trying to undo by replanting thousands of acres of forest.

``If you say it was our fault, I would say we just did what our leaders asked us to do,″ said Xiong, sitting in a doorway cleaning wild mushrooms on a sunny autumn morning. Behind him, his wife cooked on a wood stove.

Many residents of the valley are members of China’s ethnic Tibetan minority. Their houses are in Tibetan style, with stone walls and ornately painted doors and windowsills. Tibetan Buddhist religious monuments and prayer flags line the road.

Farming of cash crops is expanding to fill the economic gap left by the end of logging. With improved transportation, the valley supplies corn, tomatoes and vegetables to markets as far away as the Sichuan provincial capital, Chengdu, nearly 185 miles to the south.

Before he retired, Xiong briefly planted saplings for the reforestation effort.

``For me, the new policy is reasonable. Overlogging is not good. We need to preserve the land,″ he said.

But Xiong is skeptical of the view, embraced lately by Chinese leaders, that timber-cutting worsened flooding this summer on the Yangtze River by stripping hillsides of vegetation that traps rainfall.

``Yes, I heard about that, but didn’t see the flooding. We don’t have television here,″ he said. ``How can that all be our fault? We’re here, and they’re so far away.″

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