Extravagant landscaping efforts undercut eco-development

By Wu Jin
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, June 25, 2018
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Without appropriate planning, many Chinese cities and towns with expanding foliage zones are showing signs of troubles that could be attributed to three flawed methods of implementation, the Economic Information Daily reported recently. These include overly excessive planting, the careless introduction of expensive trees and a single-minded focus on aesthetics.

Excessive planting

Yang Lihua, chief engineer of the Forestry Bureau of Yiyang city, Hunan province, revealed that the hedges adorning isolation zones on city roads are in fact quite costly.

According to Yang, to maintain good panoramic views along those roads, the hedges need to be kept up frequently, leading to an expenditure of about 560 yuan (US$87) per square meter annually. This constitutes at least 70 percent of the entire cost, with machinery output producing higher carbon emissions at the same time.

Meanwhile, frequent changes in plantings run counter to the principles of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC), which vowed to give priority to conserving resources, protecting the environment and ensuring its natural restoration.

According to one anonymous botanist based in central China, every time his city undertakes a facelift, the tree canopy drops by about 20 percent.

"From plane trees, Ligustrum lucidum, to American maple trees, this city has replaced the clusters of trees flanking its major roads over the past 30 years, having never taken the concerns of science into consideration," the expert said.

Moreover, in some cities, reasonable planning often gives way to the will of local officials, who decide which species of trees to introduce despite being uneducated in the names and properties of different varieties. Officials sometimes end up ignoring professional advice and ordering trees which later turn out to be liabilities rather than green assets, making a substantial waste of human and natural resources.

At the same time, by digging trenches, tapping lowlands and moving flora, many local greenery projects supplant the original appearance of native landscapes, an environmentalist from a coastal city shared on the condition of anonymity.

Careless introduction of expensive trees

In spite of the fundamental rules requiring different cities to produce more green coverage while grow different plants based on their natural and geological conditions, many Chinese cities are doing just the opposite.

From southern prairies to inland coastal resorts, overlapping planting of flowers and trees once seen as unique symbols of different cities, has also resulted in a widespread loss of distinctiveness.

According to an anonymous expert from a coastal city, a typhoon previously uprooted 600,000 trees, most of which were newly introduced saplings of phoenix trees and orchid trees costing 2,000 to 3,000 yuan each. These are known to be less resilient to that region's particularly extreme summer weather conditions.

In addition, the expert revealed, several years ago, a trend of planting osmanthus or fragrant olive trees swept across the country, despite the fact that the trees are expensive, slow-growing and less efficient in controlling pollutants. However, several years later, many of them have replaced older woods.

Moreover, south to the Yangtze River, the camphor tree has become symbolic in many cities. The uncontrolled nature of trends like this has led many nurseries to run in surpluses.

The stockpile in nurseries in Hunan province, for instance, has reached millions, adding up to a cost of one billion yuan, according to Pei Xiaoming, chairman of Hunan Lvyuan Nursery Garden Co, Ltd.

Single-minded focus on aesthetics

According to the Economic Information Daily, many cities and towns are indulging in the design and creation of extravagant sightseeing spots, even at the sacrifice of convenience and natural restoration.

For instance, in a city in the central part of the country, along a two-way, eight-lane major avenue extending over 10 kilometers, trees flanking the road have been planted in terraces built in such a way that in fact places drivers outside of the shade of foliage that was intended to shield them from the sun.

During large-scale building of green lands, some cities choose to replace mismatched older trees with more uniform new saplings, claiming that the latter looks more attractive.

However, some experts have warned that a 10-year-old tree may be up to 200 times more ecologically efficient than a sapling with the same canopy area, because the old one is far more efficient at conserving water and more capable of balancing the microbial environment.

In addition, when trees which firmly held alkali soil are cut to make way for the expansion of sidewalks as a quick solution to traffic congestion, resulting flooding leading to man-made marshes have been reported when it rains in adjacent communities.

The chic and modern look of a city should never supersede efforts to build a sustainable, eco-friendly environment in which natural resources are conserved, the Economic Information Daily concluded.

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