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Old trees risk death in hands of developers

MANY people believe when there is an ancient tree at their neighborhood, they'll be able to have a change of luck. Because of this piece of superstition, now real estate developers are trying to transplant old trees into developments to raise the value of apartments.

Recently the fifth phase of the Dahua Qingshuiwan Garden development in Putuo District welcomed an 80-year-old camphor. The tree, whose trunk measures two meters in diameter, is regarded as the biggest treasure in the neighborhood.

An official with the community, who was not willing to be named, said the camphor came from a "mountainous area," and cost about 100,000 yuan (US$15,150). She said that the tree would not only improve the ecological conditions of the whole community, but would also bring good luck to residents.

Shanghai Daily yesterday found many real estate ads on the Internet, whose selling point was "ancient trees." The developer of a neighborhood in Minhang District even claimed that they had hundreds of ancient trees in the residential area.

The trees, however, may easily die because of the change in environment, experts said.

"The trees may be over-pruned to fit in with the overall environment of the community, which will be yet another disaster for them," said Li Li, director of the Greenery Management Committee under the Shanghai Greenery and the Public Sanitation Administrative Bureau. "Some of them could die in just one to two years."

Li, however, said that authorities could do nothing to deal with the situation, as their power only covers to the ancient trees in the city, which are prohibited from being moved.

"We once urged law makers to make specific regulations on cross-provincial ancient trees protection, but they found the law would be very hard to adopt in practical operation," she said.

Li said the committee was still making efforts to protect the "newcomers." Trees which are rooted in Shanghai for five years or more will be incorporated into local protected legislation, and cannot be moved without the city government's permission.

"We discourage real estate developers from bringing more ancient trees from other places into the city," she said.


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