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Kunming trees and utilities still suffering from January cold

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One month ago, Kunming suffered through its coldest day in three decades. The temperature dipped to eight degrees centigrade below zero in some parts of the city. While such temperatures were extremely inconvenient for people going about their daily lives, the cold was downright deadly for uncounted numbers of trees and water meters across the Spring City.

Hope for Kunming's trees?

For the past month, tree trimmers have moved methodically through town, hacking dead limbs off of heartier species and uprooting or cutting down tropical perennials that did not survive the January cold snap. Many of the city's trees suffered from the plant equivalent of "frostbite", and the current chill may affect them further, says Professor of Ecology Li Yuanbiao (李元表) of Yunnan Agricultural University.

Most Spring City trees should rebound if not hurt by further subzero weather or over-eager pruning. As long as root systems and trunks remain in good shape, trees should bloom normally when warmer weather returns, according to Li.

However, he cautioned that assessing the health of thousands of trees was nearly impossible, and that the city should not rush to replace or cut down seemingly damaged specimens until they have had a chance to recover. Nevertheless, city workers and tree trimming companies have taken a seemingly drastic approach along roads and inside neighborhoods throughout Kunming. We will have to wait until spring temperatures rise before seeing the full extent of the damage.

Water meter fix almost finished

Sub-freezing temperatures just before Spring Festival also wreaked havoc on more than 60,000 residential water meters. Some froze and quit working, while others ruptured and sprung leaks. Statistics released by the Kunming Water Company (KWC) show outages and damaged meters affected five percent of the company's 1.1 million customers.

Repair crews have worked furiously throughout February, but reports of broken pipes and gauges are still coming in, especially from people returning late from the New Year holiday. A company spokesman said KWC will respond to the forty or so service calls it is currently receiving on a daily basis "in the order they are received", until the problem is fixed.

Households with water problems can call phone a 24-hour hotline at 6511222 to report issues. Replacement services for broken meters are free, but those who contract an independent company for speedier labor will not be reimbursed for their trouble, according to a KWC statement.

Image: Patrick Scally

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I would suggest that hundreds of thousands of trees, shrubs and plants were killed by the cold. Air quality and air safety is going to be a real problem in the area without a massive replanting scheme by all. Yes some plants will revive. Some will be finished off by massive over trimming. The continuing cold weather is not helping. What is the government planning to do and how can we help?

I hope someone from local government reads this.

It would be good if they replant with varieties that are more indigenous to the area. Both drought and cold resistant.
Vast amounts of water is used on a lot of the shrubs in the city when the weather is dry, and the subtropical species with very fleshy leaves will tolerate neither frost, nor drought.

Ok, some of these species may not be as pretty but they are more sustainable.

Just went cycling, and really missing the shade the trees provided. Strange that the palm trees all seem fine.

I am no expert on plants and trees but it's fairly common that things die in winter and magically grow back in spring. I was very surprised to see the extent of the cutting back of the trees. But now all is clear.

Today i saw some of the remaining trees in the centre being not only cut back, but then uprooted and taken away. The irony is that they spent such a long time messing round with the trees after the winter and now Spring has arrived most remaining trees are sprouting new shoots. By Summer they'd be fine.

However when someone sees an opportunity to waste funds and fill their own pockets contracts for new trees are drawn up quickly.

Maybe I'm jumping to conclusions but I see no other reason why this is being done.

I'm no expert either, but I'm pretty sure that cutting back the dead areas of the trees, if it's done correctly, helps the living parts of the trees to put out new shoots - uprooting them, probably not.

They may be using the opportunity to switch out some of the tree species that do require a lot of watering for most of the year. This is a huge drain on the water supply (no pun intended) and government budgets for labor.

The water that is sprayed on the streets to reduce dust and on the plants and trees comes from the sewer. If you look carefully, you will see the trucks lined up near the canals filling their tanks. They do not use potable water for these things.

@Caqmpo: I don't think this hurts the trees, does it?

@alien

If done right, it can help the trees.

Some old garden hacks even say, once dead tree, will have stronger branches and grow better fruits and better canopies.

But if their water capillaries are cut,or destroyed due to the water expansion, -from the ice or frost, they are gone.

You are right, usually farmers or gardeners with lots of experience even get surprised sometimes what tree or plant, once written off.... came back beautifully.
But let's be honest most of those gardening blokes don't know anything. No blame, they are cheap farmers hired, to do whatever their leader orders them to do.

And there is the problem, that we have complete morons running the watering and gardening in Kunming. I asked one of the fore workers, once what sort of flower bush this is. He had actually no clue, and ordered his team to spray it for 5 minutes. A few weeks later, it was dead.

human poop water isn't harmful for the plant, necessarily but it's harmful for humans and it can lead to unwanted growth and even kill a plant. If you have a garden, pee once a day on a small tree or bush and see what happens.

The sewage water is from a closed water cycle, and it won't come back unless it rains.

Sometimes the stupidity of Kunming's city management is still surprising me. Although it's funny sometimes.

The stuff I mentioned is something anyone, who ever planted more than one flower or plant, knows. And should know.

Can't remember personally planting anything for a very long time. However, I'd imagine the cheap farmers have. I'm not sure the problem is their ignorance, but perhaps that of their leaders, but they're stuck for economic reasons and so have to follow orders. Anyway, it's not as if their are no good gardeners in China - seems it's a matter of making sure those who are are allowed to get into positions where their 'orders' will be the ones that make sense.

I have no problem with cutting back the trees for better growth but the trees on my street and many in Wuhua are now being dug up (roots cut off i.e killed) and bags of earth left for the tree that will replace it. These are tree that have new shoots. Seems very illogical and money/time-wasting. Surely either a big mistake in management or someone is making a big profit on the new trees at the people's expense

Uprooted and destroyed trees again now the weathers got colder. Is this Kunming's new policy? Plant some trees, when it gets cold uproot them, then a month or so later plant some trees again!

I smell the stink of a corrupted politician taking up briberies in favour of this nonsense practice.

The trees are mentioned in this article about the former leader gone to jail. www.gokunming.com/[...]
Those trees should never have been planted, they were water hungry in a city suffering from drought. They tried to same them where I live, but were not 100% successful, and now they are digging out the stumps. Local species that can survive local weather conditions are more sustainable.

Is Kunming currently still suffering from drought?

nother inane question. a tree isnt just for xmas a tree is for life.

@Dazzer +1

No dazzer, trees are not for life

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