BEIJING, March 12 (Xinhua) -- This year's Tree-Planting Day comes at a fitting time, as the memory of a sandstorm that ravaged large parts of north China last weekend is still stingingly fresh.
The Chinese public observed Tree-Planting Day, a yearly campaign designed to promote tree-planting efforts, on Tuesday. But now more and more people are doubting the campaign's effectiveness, complaining that all the talk about planting trees has not resulted in much action.
Hazardous levels of pollution that have hit multiple Chinese cities in recent months have served to galvanize public opinion regarding the government's efforts -- or lack thereof -- to clean up the country.
Although students, government employees and white-collar workers have been mobilized to plant trees in Beijing's suburbs, many people still have doubts about whether the campaign is truly effective or just a publicity stunt.
"It is more of a sense of publicity than practicality. Tree-planting efforts should be carried out by forestry professionals," said Yang Mingsen, president of China Environment News, a newspaper sponsored by the Ministry of Environmental Protection.
The National Afforestation Committee Office issued a report on Monday stating that some 600 million people helped to plant trees nationwide last year, with 2.6 billion trees planted. Volunteers have planted 64 billion trees since the government first encouraged participation in such activities in 1981, according to the report.
"So what? We want to know how many of the trees have survived," netizen "zhaozhaolehuo" wrote on Sina Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter.
Netizen "woodcarola" said Tree-Planting Day reminds him of donations that he and his classmates made in high school.
"Our teacher told us the money would pay for trees to be planted in Inner Mongolia in order to prevent sandstorms. But I don't know where our donated trees are after all these years," he wrote.
Conditions in some urban areas have made it difficult to plant trees. A woman from east China's Zhejiang Province who sought to plant a tree with her son was told by local forestry authorities that there were no available areas to plant trees, the Beijing Times reported on Tuesday.
Zhang Jianlong, deputy director of the State Forestry Administration, said 80 million mu (5.3 million hectares) to 90 million mu of forest are planted annually, although 30 million mu is consumed by the logging industry.
Illegal logging, forest fires and pests have also consumed many trees, he said.
Still, many believe the government has not prioritized forestry protection. In 2011, residents of the city of Nanjing in east China's Jiangsu Province launched a campaign to protect old trees that they believed would be targeted for destruction in order to make way for subway construction.