SHIJIAZHUANG, March 12 (Xinhua) -- North China's Hebei Province, one of the most polluted regions in the country, will plant 1.12 million hectares of forests in four years to ease its heavy air pollution, the provincial forestry department announced on Wednesday.
Hebei will plant 280,000 hectares of forests per year from 2014 to 2017, according to the department.
Statistics showed that forest coverage in Hebei was 28 percent in 2013, ranking 18th in the country.
Hebei plans to increase its forest area to 6.57 million hectares by 2020 with forest coverage of more than 35 percent.
Wang Haiyang, director of the Hebei Provincial Forestry Department, said planting trees can help improve local air quality, as well as reduce industrial waste gases and vehicle exhaust emissions.
Every cubic meter of forest can absorb 1.83 tonnes of carbon dioxide while generating 1.62 tonnes of oxygen, Wang said, adding that the afforestation program has the advantages of costing less and better ecological benefits, compared to industrial emission reduction.
According to the Ministry of Environmental Protection, Hebei, neighboring Beijing, is home to as many as seven of the country's 10 most polluted cities. Hebei, Beijing and surrounding areas are frequently hit by heavy smog.
The province has shut down 8,347 small high-polluting firms in the past year in an attempt to ease air pollution.