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    Mar 21, 2016

    Mum plants 2m trees for dead son


    TO FUILFIL the wish of her late son, come to terms with his death and also find her own inner peace, a Chinese mother has stayed true to one mission - for 12 long years.

    During that time, Yi Jiefang, 67, has planted more than two million trees on sandy land and three deserts in northern China's Inner Mongolia region, reported Chinese media.

    She depends mostly on the non-profit organisation GreenLife, which she set up for most of the funds needed to buy the saplings and hire workers to assist her in the planting.

    But when she started on the project, a large part of the money came from the insurance compensation she received for the traffic accident that killed her son Yang Ruizhe in Japan in 2000.

    His death caused Madam Yi, who then worked in a tour agency in Japan, to decide to carry out what she saw as the unfulfilled wish of the 22-year-old undergraduate with the help of her husband, a Chinese physician, Hong Kong's Phoenix Television earlier reported.

    "Ruizhe once told me he wanted to help northern China combat desertification by planting trees after he graduated, as he had seen a television report on how sand storms had devastated the region," she told Phoenix.

    "It's unfortunate that he could not do it himself.

    "So I'm doing it on his behalf," she added firmly.

    Madam Yi's plan is to return all the reforested lands back to their original inhabitants, including farmers and cattlemen, when her project ends.

    "People should know that one tree can prevent 4 sq m of land from being taken over by sand," she pointed out to The Paper, a Shanghai-based online newspaper, stressing the urgency to hold back the encroaching sands in northern China.

    Madam Yi, who began her voluntary reforestation effort in 2004 to help curb desertification in Inner Mongolia, had by 2011 covered more than 6,500ha in the Horqin sandy land in the region's east with 1.1 million trees, said The Paper.

    She is now in the process of doing the same on more than 8,500ha across three deserts in the Ala Shan area in the region's west.

    Altogether, she has planted more than two million trees, although her tree-planting rate has fallen from originally 500,000 saplings a year to 80,000 now.

    Madam Yi explained that the decline is due to her switch of emphasis to ensuring that the planted trees survive from just wanting to cover as many hectares as possible in a short time.

    For that end, she has been experimenting with growing sturdier species such as Mongolian pine, said the former Chinese language teacher from Shanghai who lived in Japan between 1988 and 2004.

    "Tree planting is not just a one-off act for show.

    "It is also about keeping the trees alive by using science," said Madam Yi.

    Her selfless act also keeps alive her memory of her own son and nurtures his own vision of a better, greener world.