The major culprit of the problem has been a rush to plant cash trees, in the wake of rising prices for betelnuts and rubber. In the worst counties, more than 100,000 mu of natural forests have been felled, in less serious ones, 20-30,000 mu. In some recently shaved forest hills, hilltops were burnt black.
Another driver to destroy natural forests is the strong demand for pulp trees in China. A Hainan provincial investigation team learned that many farmers wouldn’t plant these trees on their own farms as they are not as profitable. But instead, some local governments would fell old forests on state land to make way for pulp trees.
Grass-roots forestry officials have been resistant in protecting the natural forests, saying that farmers need to survive, need to develop the economy, destroying the forests is the last thing they can do. [Full Text in Chinese]