“Nobody will realise what happened if we remove these trees while everyone’s sleeping!”
Thought the state-abetted tree-cutting was just a Nanjing problem? Well, now, it’s come to Shanghai too, and for the same reason.
On Sunday morning, residents along Maoming North Road were shocked to find the plane trees that have lined the avenue for close to five decades all gone.
The 37 trees on the stretch between Weihai and Nanjing West Roads were chopped down by workers and removed in the middle of the night. Today, cement covers the spots where the trees once stood.
Unfortunately for our city planners, one night bird who is also a Weibo user snapped pictures of the workers in action, and the photos have since gone viral.
As a sign put up in the neighbourhood shows, the removal of the trees has been approved by the Shanghai Municipal Afforestation & City Appearance Bureau (市绿化市容局), ostensibly for the construction of the new Metro Line 12.
In response to the online furore that erupted, the bureau called for an emergency press conference less than 24 hours after the pictures were put online.
According to a bureau spokesperson, the “replanting” of 150 trees will be necessary because of metro construction works, and that the metro line had already been designed in such a way as to keep the number of affected trees to a “minimum”. Furthermore, the bureau would follow up on the replanting of the trees, and ensure a 95% success rate.
Few residents, however, remain convinced of what the local authorities are saying because the pictures show many of the trees with roots chopped off.
Two weeks ago, after we reported the chopping of the Nanjing trees, local residents and protestors won a small victory after the party secretary and the mayor appeared publicly to announce the halt of the further removal of the trees pending further study and public input.
The showdown has been hailed by pundits as a sign of greater environmental consciousness, and a greater demand for accountability and consultative governance.
Paul French of ChinaRhyming offers an excellent glimpse into what Maoming North Road, formerly known as Moulmein Road, and Maoming South Road, formerly Rue Cardinal Mercier, once were in their former glory, as well as the tragic architectural losses sustained by the neighbourhood in the year 2010 alone.
More pictures after the jump…
The pictures that went viral on Sina Weibo: