China has given more than 60,000 soldiers a new order: plant trees to create new forests.
According to the Asia Times, a regiment of the People's Liberation Army and China's armed police force have been withdrawn from their posts in the northern border areas. The task is part of efforts to address high levels of air pollution.
The project is great. China plans to have 6.66 million hectares of new forest growth this year, having created 33.8 million hectares (338,000 km2) of forest in the past five years, says Zhang Jianlong, head of the State Forestry Administration, in a report from Reuters. The country wants to increase the land area covered by forests from 21.7% in 2016 to 23% in 2020, according to China Daily.
Most of the reassigned soldiers will work in heavily polluted Hebei province, where three new state forests are planned. The province is often blamed for producing the fumes and smoke that blanket Beijing and northern China, and has pledged to increase its forest coverage to 35% by the end of 2020.
The reassignment will not come as a total surprise: Several members of the staff have been switched to non-military missions as plans to cut 300,000 soldiers were announced in 2015.
According to the Asia Times, the reassigned troops are not dissatisfied - planting trees indoors away from the harsh living conditions on China's northern borders.
Original article (in English)