China has reportedly reassigned over 60,000 soldiers to plant trees in a bid to combat pollution by increasing the country’s forest coverage.
A large regiment from the People’s Liberation Army, along with some of the nation’s armed police force, have been withdrawn from their posts on the northern border to work on non-military tasks inland.
The majority will be dispatched to Hebei province, which encircles Beijing, according to the Asia Times which originally reported the story. The area is known to be a major culprit for producing the notorious smog which blankets the capital city.
The idea is believed to be popular among members of online military forums as long as they can keep their ranks and entitlements.
It comes as part of China’s plan to plant at least 84,000 square kilometers (32,400 square miles) of trees by the end of the year, which is roughly equivalent to the size of Ireland.
The aim is to increase the country’s forest coverage from 21 percent of its total landmass to 23 percent by 2020, the China Daily newspaper reported.
Zhang Jianlong, head of China’s State Forestry Administration, said by 2035 the figure could reach as high as 26 percent.
“Companies, organizations and talent that specialize in greening work are all welcome to join in the country’s massive greening campaign,” he said.
“Cooperation between government and social capital will be put on the priority list.”